ZIMBABWE: Delays in election results puts country on edge

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Three days after Zimbabwe's 29 March poll, rumour, speculation and uncertainty are the only tangible results of an election that has been billed as President Robert Mugabe's final stand after 28 years in office.

Late on Tuesday the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that, out of a 210-seat parliament, the ruling ZANU-PF party had secured 68 seats, the main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had won 67, while a breakaway faction of the MDC had picked up five. 

Tsvangirai, declared in his first public appearance since polling day at a press briefing on Tuesday night at the Meikles Hotel in the capital, Harare:  "There is no doubt that we as the MDC have won the elections [both parliamnetary and presidential elections]."

There has been no official word on the results of the three way presidential battle, pitting Mugabe, Tsvangirai and former finance minister Simba Makoni for the highest office, there is already speculation that the race will enter a second round.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a nongovernmental electoral monitoring organisation, is predicting a run off presidential ballot, and believe that  none of the three candidates secured more than 50 percent of the vote cast. To avoid a second round of voting one of the candidates is required to obtain at least 51 percent of the vote, to be declared outright winner.

On Tuesday night senior military and political sources told IRIN that an all party meeting was being held to try and work out a power sharing deal that would allow Mugabe to exit with dignity. 

No deals 

Talks of deal making were denied by both ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai.  

"There is no way we can enter into any negotiations before ZEC announces the full outcome of results...There are no discussions, the stories are just mere speculation," Tsvangirai said.  

Tsvangirai added that should the ZEC not announce the results on Wednesday, then the MDC would release the results it had collected from polling stations.

According to ZESN chairman, Noel Kututwa, whose organisation collated results posted outside polling stations following each count, Tsvangirai was projected to garner 49.4 percent of the vote, Mugabe 41.8 percent, and Makoni 8.2 percent.

"While it is the responsibility of ZEC to announce the official results of the election, it is the legal duty of election observers to provide the people of Zimbabwe with independent nonpartisan information on all aspects of the electoral process," Kututwa said.

The slow release of parliamentary results, the absolute silence surrounding the outcome of the presidential ballot and the increasing presence of police and army personel on the streets of the capital, Harare, has led to mounting fears of vote rigging and the belief that the government was preparing to declare a state of emergency.

The Crisis Coalition, an umbrella body of civil organisations, has made an urgent petition to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional body, and the African Union to pressure Mugabe to respect the will of the people and to speedily announce the elelction results.

State of emergency

Coalition spokesperson, MacDonald Lewanika, said: "Of significant concern are unconfirmed reports that the incumbent president is preparing to declare a state of emergency after announcing inaccurate results.

"This is consistent with the threats made by the security chiefs before elections that they are not prepared to accept the election results if President Mugabe and ZANU-PF lose the elections," he said.

The SADC Observer Mission have already given the elections a clean bill of health. European Union and United States observers were prevented from overseeing the poll.

However, in declaring the elections as credible, SADC said they were concerned about the bias against the opposition by the state media, threatening statements by the military, the presence of police officers in the polling stations and the use of public resources for party political business.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Nongovernmental Organisation Forum, a pro-democracy body, said the SADC Observer Mission's statement that the election was "an expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe" was premature.

"An election is a process, not an event, which is only concluded when the results have been communicated to and accepted by the electorate. The electorate remains uninformed about the bulk of the results long after polls were closed and votes counted," the human rights forum said in a statement.

Irine Petras, the director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said the ZEC has been acting outside its electoral mandate by announcing parliamentary results.

"Results of the House of Assembly were announced and displayed at constituency centres. It is the presidential results which ZEC should be announcing," Petras said.

ZANU-PF and MDC officials told IRIN that Mugabe was delaying the release of the presidential results and had deployed the military and the police onto the streets as a bargaining tool.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), said the elections process had fallen far short of democratic standards.

"The mission found the electoral process to be severely wanting in respect of fairness as most of the critical aspects of the process lacked transparency," EISA said in a statement.

Source: IRIN