Credibility of Zimbabwe elections seriously compromised

ZESN claims 1 million urban voters disenfranchised

Richard Lee's picture


Strategic communications for WWF

August 1st, 2013

While voting in Zimbabwe’s elections was relatively calm and peaceful, the credibility of the polls has been seriously compromised by a systematic effort to disenfranchise an estimated million voters, according to the non-partisan (ZESN)

As part of its comprehensive effort to observe the 2013 elections, ZESN deployed over 7,000 observers to every province and constituency in the country. The organisation also closely monitored the run-up to the polls.

According to ZESN’s statement, the voter registration process prior to the elections was systematically biased against urban voters. The voters’ roll of 19 June – as provided by the Office of the Registrar General – clearly showed that urban voters had systematically been denied the opportunity to register to vote. A total of 99.97 percent of rural voters were registered, while only 67.94 percent of urban voters were registered.

Over 750,000 urban voters were missing on the voters’ roll compared to rural voters. “In contravention of the law, the final voters’ roll was not made available in electronic format prior to election day,” added ZESN. “Thus there is no way to assess any bias on the final voters’ roll.”

But urban voters were not just disenfranchised through the biased registration process. On election day, 82% of urban polling stations turned many potential voters away as opposed to just 38 percent of polling stations in rural areas. This served to disenfranchise thousands more of urban voters on Election Day.

“These factors on their own fundamentally undermine the degree to which the results of the 2013 harmonised election can be considered to reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people,” said ZESN.

“When compounded by the massive bias in the state media, the campaign of intimidation in rural areas, the lack of meaningful voter education, the rushed electoral process and the harassment of civil society, this leaves the credibility of these elections severely compromised,” added ZESN.

Given all this, ZESN has called on the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to be objective in their evaluation of these elections and to take into account all the pre-election issues that have a bearing on the ability of citizens to genuinely choose their government. 

“Based on our assessment so far, although the pre-election period was calm and peaceful, there are many other critical factors that can undermine the credibility of the entire electoral process,” said ZESN. “The preparations were inadequate, voter registration and voters’ roll was flawed, voter education was limited and the special voting was chaotic.”

“While polling day processes were smooth and no major incidents were reported, we urge observers and all stakeholders to look below the surface as there are some grave issues that have arisen. All is not well.”



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