Zimbabwe heading for its freest election ever but if ZANU-PF feels threatened the plug might be pulled?


Zimbabwe’s deputy Finance Minister, Terence Mukupe, recently told supporters that the military will not permit the opposition to win the election. Human rights groups have urged the military to declare its neutrality in the election race, but no such statement has been issued so far. The military’s role in the coup, just seven months ago, suggests that it sees itself as the final arbiter of power.

Even without the military, Mnangagwa has other advantages. Zimbabwe’s courts have refused to allow voting by the Zimbabwean diaspora – an estimated three million people who are believed to be largely opposition supporters. They won’t be permitted to vote unless they return to Zimbabwe.

A pre-election report by an observer team from two US-based organizations, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, found “notable improvements in the political environment and electoral preparations” compared to previous elections. But it also cited a series of significant problems, including the lack of a proper audit of the voters roll and the failure to provide a copy of the voters roll to political parties and citizen observers in a format that they can properly review.

The survey by Afrobarometer found that 31 per cent of registered voters had been asked to show the serial number of their voter registration slips to unauthorized officials – a potential tactic to intimidate them into voting for the ruling party.

The ruling party has a long history of intimidation tactics and violence. In the fiercely contested 2008 election, for example, thousands of opposition supporters were assaulted, abducted, tortured or raped by pro-government thugs and security agents.

Human Rights Watch says its research last month found “widespread intimidation, harassment and threats of violence” – mainly by the ruling party’s supporters – to coerce voters to hand over their voter registration slips and to commit themselves to supporting the ruling party. Some voters were threatened with the loss of food aid if they failed to vote for the ruling party, it said.

Another concern is the potential bias of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. “The commission has not demonstrated independence or impartiality,” Human Rights Watch said.

The US election observers said the electoral commission might not be fully independent because it is under the “oversight authority” of Mnangagwa’s Justice Minister.

And despite the state television broadcast of the opposition’s election manifesto, the ruling party still enjoys the largest share of positive coverage in state media coverage, according to the latest daily reports by Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, an independent group.

“All in all, this election should be qualitatively better than Zimbabwe’s rather sordid history of elections past,” said David Moore, a Zimbabwe expert at the University of Johannesburg.

“If, however, ZANU-PF and especially its military wing feels threatened, the plug might be pulled.”- The Globe and Mail


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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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