The initial optimism surrounding Zimbabwe's election is now fading.
A new president and parliament are expected to be elected by Zimbabweans under the new constitution that was approved and ratified earlier this year. Wednesday's vote was monitored by international observers such the African Union (AU), the South African Development Community (SADC), and local and independent groups with the most prominent being the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN). However, western observers were banned from the country. At the end of the day, it is clear the country is still Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
Polling stations were literally inundated by voters, with queues from early morning to late night, as many centers were forced to remain open, in some cases until midnight. The turnout is, therefore, expected to be high and unprecedented, signing the first victory for the people of Zimbabwe: they responded with pride and joy, with a duty to call for democracy.
The electoral process ran smoothly, with neither violence nor clashes between rivals having been reported. There were queues and orderly lines — although the heavy bureaucratic machine sometimes failed to respond to emergency requests. In some areas, especially urban ones, some voters were not on the electoral register of that particular polling station and officers were “strongly invited” by parties’ officials to call the Electoral Commission HQ to confirm registration and avoid having to turn people away. However, turning voters away seemed to have happened with some frequency, especially in urban areas in the south such as Bulawayo and Matabeleland.
Nevertheless, the AU and SADC confirmed that the elections ran smoothly and Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president, confirmed that “no incidents are registered that would not reflect the will of the people” — a statement confirmed by SADC monitors and the eyes of the public.
Flaws and Irregularities
However, this is where the good news seems to end. Since Thursday morning, rumors of fraud and allegations of vote manipulation have surfaced.
The ZESN described the elections as “seriously compromised.” It reported that at least 1 million voters were turned away, especially in urban areas where support for Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is supposedly stronger. The ZESN said this anomaly affected 82% of urban polling stations, whilst it could be observed in less than 40% of the stations in rural areas considered to be a stronghold of Mugabe.
The ZESN is not the only one alleging frauds, as even before the elections the MDC accused Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of hiding the electoral register, which they said was compiled in 1985 and contained at least 2 million dead voters or unaccounted for persons. ZANU-PF and ZEC denied these allegations and the register was published on July 30, only a day before Zimbabweans went to the ballot box.
Whilst debating the process and alleged irregularities, another event has seriously disturbed the idyllic atmosphere of the election. On Thursday morning, an unnamed senior ZANU-PF official released a statement to Reuters saying, “we have buried MDC.” This press release infuriated the MDC and Tsvangirai, who declared the election a “monumental fraud” and later stated to Reuters: “In our view, that election is null and void… it is a huge farce.”
The ZANU-PF statement could now open more questions on whether the elections have been transparent, free and fair, or not. Especially since after the polls closed, the police spokesman, Charity Charemba, released a statement warning that whoever would declare unofficial results before the ZEC, may be arrested.
Is that going to be applied to ZANU-PF officials? Apart from the Mugabe regime’s propaganda, there are unconfirmed political sources that seem to confirm the above statement as, according to them, the MDC and Tsvangirai lost ground nearly everywhere — even in Harare.
The ZEC will have five days to complete the counting process and announce the official results, but it is rather clear that Mugabe will most likely be reelected at the first round.
As the post-election period unfolds, the calm and hope of election day is turning rapidly into a sour atmosphere of accusations and allegations with consequences that bring up many questions: Will the results be accepted? Are judicial battles likely to follow? Can elections that were organized in such a short time-span be free and fair?
While Zimbabweans wait for the official results, everyone is now starting to look back in time hoping to avoid the disaster of five years ago.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Image: Copyright © Shutterstock. All Rights Reserved