Claims of vote-rigging mark Zimbabwe elections
By Angus Shaw and Gillian Gotora
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Allegations of vote-rigging flowed in Zimbabwe on Thursday, with reports of fake registration cards, voters turned away from the polls and people appearing on voters’ lists four times with different IDs. Even before results were announced, the main opposition camp said longtime President Robert Mugabe stole the election, which his supporters denied.
Either way, the country faces fresh political uncertainty. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s main challenger, said the general elections Wednesday were “null and void” because of violations of the voting process, and a poll-monitoring group not affiliated with the state also said the election was compromised by a campaign to stop voters from casting ballots.
An alliance of protesters promptly rejected the demand, raising the prospect of more violence.
Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential runoff vote in 2008 to protest violence against his supporters but said in the run-up this year that he was confident Zimbabweans would vote for change even in the most difficult conditions.
“The shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge this country into a serious crisis,” Tsvangirai said of the balloting Wednesday.
Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said accusations of vote-rigging were false. “We dismiss these allegations with the contempt they deserve, because there was absolutely no way of manipulating the system,” he said.
Thabani Nyoni, a civic activist and senior researcher at the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an alliance of about 70 rights and pro-democracy groups, predicted that protests against election irregularities would emerge after official results are confirmed.
The state election commission has promised a full tally of results by Monday. No results have been announced yet.
Voter Matthew Pfuri, a Harare car salesman, said he was shocked by early results coming from polling stations where, under electoral law, summaries are posted outside when initial vote-counting is complete. Mugabe supporters have claimed that early, unconfirmed results show the president has a decisive lead.
“Maybe it’s a good outcome for Tsvangirai,” Pfuri said. “People now know what they are up against and say this blatant abuse can’t last much longer.”
Mugabe’s party said Thursday it has withdrawn an unauthorized message on its Twitter feed claiming a resounding victory.
Solomon Zwana, head of the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said that his organization found a “wide range of problems” in the elections and that as many as 1 million out of more than 6 million eligible voters were not on voters’ lists.
— Associated Press