International observers could play a critical role in Zimbabwe elections

International observers could play a critical role in Zimbabwe elections

The Zimbabwean government press accuses the groups of misusing donor funds, although all three have filed detailed accounts approved by other donors.

The ERC was planning to run a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) which would give an accurate guide to the outcome, based on detailed reporting of results from a nationally representative group of constituencies.

It will no longer have the capacity to do this, but it had already set up some systems with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and the US’s National Democratic Institute.

These organisations will now run the PVT on 30 July, hoping to produce a credible result 24 hours after polling stations close.

Meanwhile, the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation claims that it has provided adequate coverage for opposition candidates, but is charging $57 936 a day to run opposition adverts.

ZBC said that any airtime allocated to the opposition which is not booked and paid for will be reallocated to other programming.

Unless the opposition parties can raise US$1.5 million, they forfeit their allocated airtime. The state-owned national press continues to provide blanket coverage of ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front rallies and campaign speeches, with only cursory, usually critical, reports of opposition campaigning.

However, privately owned newspapers such as NewsDay, DailyNews, The Financial Gazette, the Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard are far more critical of the government, although their influence does not extend much beyond Harare, Bulawayo and a few other cities.

Most important are the state-owned radio stations broadcasting in Shona and Ndebele, which reach into the rural hinterland. They reinforce the messages from traditional leaders, who are overwhelmingly pro-ZANU-PF.

Against this, the opposition hopes that its younger supporters in the towns, who provide money and food for their families in rural areas, will counter the weight of the state-sponsored message.- Africa Confidential




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