Three ways to steal an election


An American consultant who was working the with the Zimbabwe Election Supervisory Network during the 2005 elections said the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front was likely to win a two-thirds majority in the election- which it eventually did- but the party had probably stolen the election.

He described three ways how the party could steal the election.

The first was the high number of voters that were turned away. About 10 percent of the voters had been turned away which was alarmingly high because the rate for most African countries was two or three percent.

At some polling stations the turn-away figure was as high as 20 percent. The reasons generally offered by polling station officials were: not being on the voter roll, inadequate identification, or presence in the wrong constituency.

Most people were turned away in areas perceived to be Movement for Democratic Change strongholds.

The second was the sudden increase in the number of voters. Several constituencies in the six provinces showed large, and unexplained, increases in the total number of voters. The four seats with the highest increase were all won by ZANU-PF by margins that were less than the additional voters.

The third was the increase in the numbers of registered voters. In several key swing constituencies that went to ZANU-PF, there were very large increases in the number of voters compared to previous elections.


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Reference ID





2005-04-01 20:31


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000501







E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010




Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d






1. (C) As of 9:30 p.m. local time, the Zimbabwe Election

Commission (ZEC) had reported 49 seats won by ZANU-PF and 35

seats won by the MDC. More importantly, the results so far

represent a net shift of ten seats to the ruling party’s

favor from the 2000 election. The opposition MDC has also

failed to win a number of seats it expected to take from

ZANU-PF. It is increasingly clear that the results are

fueled by ZANU-PF manipulations of the vote, including:

sudden large increases in registration in contested

constituencies, an extremely high rate of voters turned away

from polling stations on technicalities, and suspicious vote

counts. END SUMMARY.



MDC Early Lead Evaporates



2. (C) Latest ZEC reports indicate that ZANU-PF has taken at

least eight constituencies from MDC control ) Chimanimani,

Harare South, Mutare South, Mutasa South, Mutasa North,

Nyanga, Mhondoro, and Chipinge North, the latter of which the

opposition had considered a safe seat. In addition, ZANU-PF

won Bikita West and Insiza, seats that went MDC in 2000 but

were reclaimed by ZANU-PF in violent by-electionS in 2001 and

2003, respectively. The ruling party also took Masvingo

North and the newly created (gerrymandered out of Harare)

Manyame seat in Mashonaland West ) both of which the MDC had

considered as in play. ZANU-PF also took Chipinge South from

ZANU-Ndonga. For its part, the MDC won the Kadoma seat in

Mashonaland West from ZANU-PF and reclaimed the Zengeza

constituency near Harare that it lost in a violent

by-election last year after winning it in 2000.


3. (C) An American consultant who has been working with the

neutral Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), which put

over 6000 monitors in the field, told us that based on these

results and other date, ZESN,s current projections were 73

seats for ZANU-PF, 45 for MDC, and two independents, the

latter including controversial former Information Minister

Jonathon Moyo in Tsholotsho. This plus the 30 seats

President Mugabe appoints would give ZANU-PF a 2/3 majority

in Parliament and with it the ability to change the

Constitution unilaterally.



Three Ways to Steal an Election



High Turn-Away Rate



4. (C) The percentage of voters turned away on a national

level ) about 10 percent ) is alarmingly high. The

consultant noted that in other African elections, where

voters typically had to vote at a specific polling station

rather than at any station in a given constituency as in

Zimbabwe, the rate was 2 or 3 percent. In some polling

stations, moreover, the turn-away figure jumped to 20 percent

or more ) typically in heavily contested constituencies.

The reasons generally offered by polling station officials to

Embassy observers ) not being on the voter roll, inadequate

identification, presence in the wrong constituency ) are

associated with numerous GOZ manipulations that disfavored

the opposition: redistricting efforts without informing

voters, lack of adequate GOZ voter education efforts

generally, and the effective disenfranchisement of Zimbabwean

youth (considered likely MDC voters) through onerous proof of

residency requirements.


5. (C) Further indicating conscious manipulation, Embassy

observers found that the turn-away figure jumped in areas

where the MDC posed the greatest threat. For example, in

Gokwe North, a ZANU-PF stronghold in Midlands, no more than

10 people were turned away at any polling station. However,

in the highly contested constituency of Gokwe Central, about

20 percent were turned away. Figures from within

constituencies show a similar pattern. In Chimanimani, for

example, Embassy observers found the highest turn-away

figures in the neighborhood around imprisoned MDC MP Roy

Bennett’s seized farm.


Sudden Increases in Numbers of Voters



6. (C) Vote counts released so far by the ZEC are

undermining confidence in the integrity of the results. In

the wee hours of Friday morning, the ZEC announced total

votes cast in constituencies for six provinces. However, the

announcements suddenly stopped without any explanation, and

no new numbers were ever released for the remaining four

provinces. When official results began to be released later

in the morning, several constituencies in the six provinces

showed large, and unexplained, increases in the total number

of voters. The four seats with the highest increase were all

won by ZANU-PF by margins that were less than the additional

voters. The newly created Manyame seat in Mashonaland West

had the highest increase, 72 percent, and has become exhibit

A in the MDC,s claims of fraud.


Large Increases in Registered Voters



7. (C) Other numbers reflect the impact of GOZ efforts to

stock the voter rolls with ruling party support. In several

key swing constituencies that went to ZANU-PF, there were

very large increases in the number of voters compared to

previous elections. Given the high emigration from these

areas over the past several years this strains credulity. In

Bennet,s Chimanimani seat, for example, the number of

ballots cast increased from 20,000 in 2000 to 26,000 this

year. In a striking coincidence, MDC numbers remained flat

in Chimanimani while ZANU-PF’s increased by 6,000, enough to

claim the seat. The sudden increase was reportedly caused in

large part by 4,000 soldiers registering in the constituency.

Other constituencies that experienced inexplicable jumps in

the number of votes cast were Bikita West, Chipinge North,

Bindura, and Marondera East ) all MDC prime targets that

went for the ruling party.



MDC as Yet Unable to Substantiate Fraud



8. (C) Complicating the MDC,s efforts to substantiate fraud

is the late start they and ZESN got in conducting parallel

vote counts. The U.S. analyst attributed this to

inexperience and disorganization but said the net result was

that the MDC, despite having multiple polling agents at

virtually every polling station, is days away from being able

to announce alternative vote totals, even for its test case

of Manyame, where the 72 percent discrepancy between the

original vote count and the official results should be easily

exposed by a tallying of all the relevant polling agents’

figures. ZESN is similarly behind in its parallel count,

which would in any event also lack coverage of all polling







9. (C) The opposition now appears unlikely to win the 51

seats it will need to thwart the ruling party’s targeted 2/3

parliamentary majority. The MDC continues to talk bravely of

plans to take to the streets but we are increasingly

skeptical that anything will come of it. As reported

earlier, at his morning press conference Tsvangirai declined

an opportunity to call for protests. Moreover, it will

unfortunately take time to substantiate the manner of

ZANU-PF’s rigging, by which time the dust may have settled

politically and left the MDC in a position familiar to it

after apparently stolen national elections in 2000 and 2002.

On a bright note, Tsvangirai has said he will not launch

legal appeals, which should save USAID millions that could be

better spent supporting Mugabe,s democratic opponents.




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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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