Zimbabweans go to the polls on July 31 to elect a new leader for the country along with a new parliament and new councillors for the country’s various local authorities.
As the country gears up for elections, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) launched a briefing paper on July 25, 2013 entitled ‘Electoral Battleground: Voters’ Roll Rigmarole’ which looks at the electoral process in the country.
ZDI is a Hivos partner, but the viewpoints expressed in their brief remain their own.
The paper is one of many that are coming out containing various viewpoints on the elections as offline and online activities reach fever pitch in an attempt to keep the world informed about the electoral process in Zimbabwe.
It looks at how the country’s institutions have fared so far in terms of preparedness for the elections with a special focus on the voter registration process and a special voting exercise held on July 14 and 15 to enable members of the police force and polling officers who will be on duty on election day to cast their votes.
The paper points out how the chaos of the voter registration exercise led to thousands of people failing to register to vote.
It states that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), a semi-independent organisation charged with running the polls, failed to adequately publicise the mobile voter registration and failed to fully equip registration centres, thus disadvantaging many prospective voters.
The ZDI paper also casts doubt on the preparedness of ZEC for the polls after tens of thousands failed to cast their votes during the special voting exercise due to delays in delivery of ballot papers to polling stations and other administrative glitches.
On the positive side, the paper notes that there have been very few incidents of politically motivated violence compared to the same period during the 2008 elections, but adds that the absence of violence does not equate to a free and fair election.
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Many of the reports coming out around the electoral process are quick to remind readers of the last Zimbabwean election, held in 2008, which was marred by violence and allegations of widespread rigging.
Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has accused the ruling ZANU (PF) party, led by Robert Mugabe, who has been at the helm of Zimbabwe’s government since independence in 1980, of tampering with the ballots.
In the end a settlement was reached through a power-sharing agreement which saw the two parties form a government of national unity, where Mugabe was elected President and Tsvangirai Prime Minister.
So now the world is watching intently to see what turn events will take. Media reports refer to ZANU (PF)’s refusal to allow European and American observers to monitor the poll, accusing them of pursuing regime change. An observer mission from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is the top team of observers accredited to cover the elections.