President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe failed to surprise those who had imagined that the elections would be free and fair. He has pulled every ruse in the book to ensure that he holds on to power.
The opposition party Movement for democratic Change has accused the government of deliberately spinning out the elections so as to exclude MDC supporters from voting. In areas where MDC is strongest, polling stations have been reduced and those controlling the booths are taking ten minutes to process each voter, leading to long queues which will prevent thousands of MDC sympathisers from voting.
At the same time, thousands of government party ZANU-PF supporters have been allowed to vote, even though they were not registered. Mugabe has already declared that he will be the winner: “I will accept the result. More than accept it because I will have won!” he declared.
Certainly he and the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, have done everything in their power to ensure that MDC votes are reduced as far as possible and that ZANU-PF votes are registered. The confusion over the manipulation of electoral registers and polling stations was apparent as Mugabe himself turned up to vote, only to discover that he was not on the list. He was spirited away to another station.
Such is not the case elsewhere. Former Prime Minister Sir Garfield Todd found that he was unable to vote because he was not registered, as was the case with many hundreds of white Zimbabweans. The state-owned media have restricted details from the opposition party to a maximum and should Morgan Tsvangirai lose the election, there is the strong possibility that he will face the death penalty due to a construed charge against him that he plotted to assassinate the President.
The independent Civic Education Trust has issued a document in which it is claimed that only 50% of voters are registered in the right constituency. Predictably, ZANU-PF votes are accepted while MDC supporters wait for hours, only to find that they have to vote in another constituency, and join the back of the queue.
27% of those on the electoral register are either dead or unaccounted for, meaning that the whole election process is a farce. Over 70,000 police officers and soldiers were forced to vote for the ZANU-PF under the eyes of their supervisors. Many polling stations are located near the training camps of Mugabe’s bloodthirsty youth force.
There have been many denunciations by observers of election fraud, including claims that ballot boxes have been stolen from MDC-sympathetic areas and MDC election agents have been attacked at various points.
US State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher declared that there is a “blatant campaign of violence, intimidation and manipulation of the electoral process…It is clear the government intends to win the election by any means”.
The organisation Journalists Without Frontiers has denounced the measure to exclude them from the count. An official communication states: “The measure, decided before the election, shows how the authorities are determined to stop the press from informing public opinion…The decision seriously discredits the transparency of the presidential election”.
Wholly predictable, totally unacceptable, whatever the result on Tuesday, Mugabe knows that he has lost. The high turnout may favour Morgan Tsvangirai but if Mugabe’s wheeling and dealing mean that he stays in power, he will have stolen the election process and been undemocratically not voted back into office.
From then on, it will be a downwards spiral. Whatever the result, goodbye, Mr. Mugabe. You will not be missed.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru