MDC, Zec row threatens polls

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<strong>HARARE - </strong>The MDC Alliance yesterday gave its clearest hint to date that it would not participate in the watershed July 30 national elections unless the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) binds itself to running what the main opposition said would be “completely fair, transparent and credible elections”.</p>

This comes after Zec issued a statement on Monday which the MDC Alliance took exception to — in which the under-pressure elections management body declared that nothing short of an earthquake would stop the make-or-break polls, whether the opposition’s myriad electoral demands were met or not.

In a hard-hitting statement released yesterday, the chief election agent for MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, Jameson Timba, said Zec and its chairperson Priscillah Chigumba were behaving in a manner which imperilled the holding of free, fair and credible elections — and the Alliance would not tolerate this.

“We do recognise and respect Zec’s role as a referee in this election, but it is very important that Zec understands that they must act fairly to all parties. Indeed, and as a matter of fact, the players on July 30 can stop the election by refusing to participate in a sham poll.

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“In addition, the people of Zimbabwe who are tired of all the shenanigans going on can refuse to participate in the said sham election, which would have failed to meet the test outlined in our Constitution and the enabling Electoral Act, as well as Zec’s regulations.

“The sad reality though, apart from these kinds of ill-advised pronouncements by Zec, is that it has not done many things right, which is contrary to the Constitution which demands that our elections be grounded on the principles of freeness, fairness and transparency,” Timba thundered.

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In statements which were viewed by critics as closing the door on the opposition and its demands for a raft of electoral reforms, Chigumba told journalists in Harare on Monday that nothing would stand in the way of the forthcoming elections, barring a major national disaster.

“Whether the candidates scrutinise the voters’ roll, whether they see any anomalies in it, whatever the anomalies are, whatever legal recourse they have will not stop an election. I want that to be very clear … nothing stops the election.

“Let me put the law into perspective. The first thing to take note is that once the president has proclaimed the election date, there is nothing short of an earthquake that can stop the election,” Chigumba said.

Timba said Chigumba was “out of order”, further urging her to apologise to the nation for making those “reckless remarks which are not consistent with the Constitution”.

“With all due respect to Justice Chigumba, these utterances are not expected from a public officer whose task, amongst others, is to instil confidence in an electoral process by assuring the nation that preparations for the plebiscite are being done with due care and transparency.

“Zec’s efforts must therefore be directed at assuring the public that it is doing all it can to conduct a free, fair and credible election and also be seen to be doing that. That’s their duty, not anything else, period,” he said.

The opposition has, for some time now, been at odds with Zec over the delayed release of the voters’ roll, among other complaints — generating both anger and suspicions that this was a ploy to hide crucial data from the opposition.

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Timba said Zec had known for five years after the last election that it needed to prepare a new voters’ roll. In addition, it also knew that it needed to allow people to inspect a provisional roll and to raise any objections that they may have at inspection stage.

“Only after this would Zec provide the final roll before the proclamation of the election date, and before the sitting of the nomination court. But nothing has been simple or proper to date.

“Yet, the credibility of any election, amongst other things, depends on the existence and availability to all players of a credible voters’ roll that is distributed timeously,” he said.

“As the representative of a presidential candidate, I was entitled to receive the national voters’ roll before the Nomination Court sat.

“To date, we do not have that roll which they said will be availed on Thursday (today). This is unacceptable.

“On Thursday, I expect to receive a biometric voters’ roll because that’s what the law demands, in addition to receiving the roll in any form one chooses — including in electronic format,” Timba said.

Meanwhile, a political analyst also told the Daily News yesterday that Zec needed to be seen to be acting in a manner which was consistent with the law, as well as the expectations of Zimbabweans and the international community alike.

“Zec can and must do more to build confidence in its processes. Sometimes, however, it appears to operate as if it has a tabula rasa (an absence of pre-determined goals) — echoing the apparent desires of the ‘new administration’.

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“Thus, it has a serious credibility problem that it must  address constructively and with humility.

“Remember also that there are commissioners and senior personnel in Zec who were complicit in the outrageous endorsement of the violent June 2008 elections.

“Why are they still there? According to the recent Afrobarometer report, 40 percent of Zimbabweans also have little or no faith in the Zec.

“Thus, this mistrust is longstanding. As such, this altercation with the main opposition must be defused as a matter of urgency and every effort must be made to promote and ensure transparency and accountability,” Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the Crisis International Group, said.

With Zimbabwe fast approaching the July 30 elections, Zec has come under the spotlight, mainly from the opposition, which claims that the national elections management body needs to be reformed ahead of the crucial polls.

On June 5, thousands of opposition supporters — mainly drawn from the MDC Alliance — marched in Harare to press for a raft of reforms which include a change of personnel at Zec, as well as transparency in the printing and distribution of ballot papers.

Next month’s elections have generated such interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike, that a staggering 22 opposition leaders are set to contest President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential plebiscite.

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