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Tuesday, April 1, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

The Times of London notes that suspicion over the results is (not surprisingly) growing in Zimbabwe over the unofficial results: Zimbabwe on a knife edge as fears deepen that result is being rigged

The sluggish pace of official results heightened fears that a massive fraud was under way to keep Mr Mugabe clinging to power. By the end of the day the handful of results released showed his Zanu (PF) party taking 31 seats and the opposition 35 in the 210-seat Parliament. Significant scalps included the Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa. No official results have been released in the presidential race.

Curiously, each update of the results showed the two parties running neck and neck. “Someone is playing games here,” a researcher for an election watchdog said. “These are not the first results as they randomly become available, as it should be. It looks like someone is deliberately spacing them in a crude attempt to placate suspicion.”

According to the story, the Mugabe government is currently weighing options:

Diplomatic and opposition sources said that Mr Mugabe held a crisis meeting with his security chiefs on Sunday night at which they discussed how to deal with what appeared to be a crushing defeat. Options included declaring victory, stopping the count or declaring martial law.

The sources, which included a former Zanu (PF) member and an MDC official, said that the Joint Operations Command, Mr Mugabe’s security cabinet, failed to agree on a course of action and instead decided to delay the results to buy more time. A senior British diplomat said: “The scenario is entirely credible.”

Interestingly, the ability of the government to perpetrate a fraud has been complicated by a more transparent than normal (in Zimbabwean terms) process:

Independent observers and party agents collected results from the polling stations and sent them to their own command centres, resulting in the tallies that the opposition is using to back its claims to be heading to a landslide victory.

The publication of results at polling station level, a first in Zimbabwe’s flawed electoral history, has emerged as the Achilles’ heel of any attempt at postelection fixing. Observers are torn between two competing theories about the new practice: that it was evidence of bold independence on the part of the Electoral Commission or that it reflects a serious miscalculation by the ruling party, which believed that releasing results at village level would make its threats of retaliation against opponents stick better.

Still, the opposition party’s general secretary, Tenadi Biti of the MDC is indicating he has been told the the results have already been decided upon, even though the official results may not be out until the end of the week:

He said that he had been told by sources within the commission that the official result would present Mr Mugabe as having won 52 per cent of the presidential vote, giving him an absolute majority, and 111 parliamentary seats – enough for a parliamentary majority, too.

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5 Responses to “More on Zimbabwe”

  1. MSS Says:

    That counting/reporting procedure is not “more transparent than normal (in Zimbabwean terms).”

    Can polling-place data be collected by parties and independent groups in any US jurisdiction? Not that I am aware of.

  2. MSS Says:

    BBC is reporting the “outlines of a deal” on Mugabe’s exit.

  3. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    Perhaps “transparent” isn’t the right word, but is this not a situation in which pre-count data was released in a way that it had not been before?

  4. Buckland Says:

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up about Mugabe leaving office as a result of a deal. Guys like him rarely leave office voluntarily while still in control of the security apparatus. When he leaves office it will be via a hearse, not a government limo.

  5. MSS Says:

    Yes, apparently.

    I was simply pointing out that this is a level of transparency that is not merely (a word I left out of the first comment) greater than normal for Zim, but something lacking in the USA.

    I think these sorts of procedures are not so unusual around the world, actually.

    As for Zim, I recall that in the first democratic election (1980; also arguably the last up to now) results were never available below the level of province, on the (reasonable) theory that if there was knowledge about how communities voted, one of the sides in the just-ended civil war might retaliate.

    In other words, the previous rules (no precinct-level disclosure) in Zim had a good origin, even if they came to work in favor of the government over time. What I can’t figure out is why Mugabe’s electoral commission agreed to such an increase in transparency for this election.

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