Politics 04-06-2018

​A Zimbabwe without Mugabe finally dreams of free elections

Violence massive fraud expulsion of independent observers. In 37 years of Robert Mugabe's authoritarian reign the voters of Zimbabwe lost the habit of participating in democratic elections.

After the fall of Mugabe in November some Zimbabweans hope that the general elections of July 30 finally end with that tradition although there are still many obstacles.

The President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in Harare, on May 11, 2018.

Emmerson Mnangagwa the country's new president and candidate for the Zanu-PF ruling party once again promised a "free honest and transparent" vote on Wednesday.

Two days earlier his Government and the European Union (EU) celebrated with great pomp the return to Zimbabwe of observers from Brussels for the first time since 2002 when the head of the mission in charge of supervising a poll was expelled from the African country.

But, despite these encouraging signs the Zimbabwean opposition distrusts the Executive after many years of violence and traps by the Zanu-PF.

"An independent audit of the electoral lists is needed" says Douglas general secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) whose president Nelson Chamisa will be Mnangagwa's main adversary.

"The parties must be able to attend the printing of the ballots the diaspora must be able to vote an equitable access to public media must be guaranteed and it is necessary that the entire electoral process be demilitarized" he adds.

To support their demands the MDC convened a large rally for Tuesday June 5 in the streets of Harare.

- "Demilitarization" -

In the Mugabe era, the army and police carried out intimidation operations against opponents during the election campaigns.

The bad arts of the ruling party reached its peak in 2008 when the repression forced the MDC's historical chief Morgan Tsvangirai who had headed the first round of the elections to resign from participating in the second round thus leaving the way clear for a new mandate of Mugabe.

After provoking the resignation of the veteran leader the military retained all their influence in the country. In fact, Mnangagwa elected his chief of staff Constantino Chiwenga as vice president.

The MDC accuses the army of not changing its customs.

"At each of our meetings in rural areas people complain about the presence of plainclothes soldiers who disturb the electoral process" party spokesman Tendai Biti said Friday.

An elector checks her registration in the electoral lists in Harare, on May 30, 2018.

The Electoral Commission also recognized that several of its members are military a revelation that raises doubts about its independence.

"For credible elections the commission must depend on Parliament, not on the Ministry of Justice" as it is currently happening says an NGO the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network.

The fact that the Constitutional Court vetoed voting for voters installed abroad this week has become another source of concern.

Since independence in 1980 hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans left their country to escape the repression of the Mugabe regime. The opposition hoped to get many votes among that expatriate community.

- Doubts about the elections -

"Numerous laws do not always respect the Constitution of Zimbabwe and threaten the rules of elections" said Tawanda Chimhini of the Electoral Resources Center.

And although the country adopted the biometric registration of voters skeptics believe that it is not enough.

"Now we have a biometric list but the signature of the voters on the day of voting will remain manual and therefore may suffer the same manipulations as in 2013" laments Piers Pigou of the International Crisis Group

"There is progress, but conditions are still biased in favor of the outgoing Government" a big favorite of the elections in front of a MDC weakened by the death of Tsvangirai in February.


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