Africa

Zimbabwe election: Votes counted after 'orderly' polls

  • 1 August 2013
  • From the section Africa

Votes are being counted following presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe.

Turnout was high in a fierce contest between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and PM Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC.

African monitors say voting on Wednesday was peaceful, but the MDC claims the electoral roll was tampered with. Results are due within five days.

Mr Mugabe, 89, has said he will step down after 33 years in power if he and his party lose.

Police warned they would take action against anyone trying to leak early results.

Zanu-PF and the MDC have shared an uneasy coalition government since 2009 under a deal brokered to end the deadly violence that erupted after a disputed presidential poll the previous year.

The first round of the 2008 poll was also praised for being peaceful - trouble broke out after the results were announced, with Mr Tsvangirai gaining more votes than Mr Mugabe.

Western observers barred

Because of the high turnout election officials granted long extensions to the opening hours of some polling stations.

To be declared a winner, a presidential candidate must win more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate reaches this mark, a run-off will be held on 11 September.

The elections were the first to be held under the new constitution approved in a referendum in March this year.

The government barred Western observers from monitoring Wednesday's elections, but the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as local organisations, have been accredited.

The AU described voting at most polling stations as "orderly and peaceful", while the main domestic monitoring agency, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said aside from the long queues voting was "smooth".

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who heads the AU monitors, told Reuters there had been no "serious incidents that... would not reflect the will of the people".

At a news conference as polls closed, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba warned that "all people who may wish to announce the results of elections before the ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] does... risk being arrested".

The warning comes after monitoring groups, newspapers and social media users reportedly planned to publish provisional tallies.

There have been numerous complaints that voters were unable to find their names on the electoral roll.

According to villagers, MDC polling agents and local election observers, irregularities were recorded in parts of rural Masvingo district.

Image caption Zimbabweans have been voting in fiercely contested presidential and parliamentary elections. These voters queued up in the capital, Harare, before polls opened. It is winter in Zimbabwe, so the mornings are chilly.
Image caption Before polls opened there were already allegations of fraud over the voters' roll which was only published on the eve of the elections. The document features the names of thousands of dead people. Some names also appear twice or three times with variations to their ID numbers or home address.
Image caption Zanu-PF's Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change's Morgan Tsvangirai are the main contenders in the presidential poll. Mr Tsvangirai's supporters are hoping it will be third time lucky for him.
Image caption Mr Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for 33 years, has said he will step down if defeated. His wife Grace (middle) has played a prominent part in his campaign. Campaigning was mostly peaceful, with few reports of intimidation.
Image caption Mr Tsvangirai, casting his ballot in Harare with his wife Elizabeth Macheka, described the poll as a historic moment.
Image caption But there have been reports of some violence, especially in Mashonaland West, a Zanu-PF stronghold. The house of 65-year-old Monica Chivera, from Hurungwe, was set ablaze on Friday in an incident suspected to be politically motivated arson. ''We were force-marched to a Zanu-PF meeting but I did not do a slogan denouncing Tsvangirai. I escaped with my five children but I lost virtually everything,'' the widow said.
Image caption In the same region on the same day a young family's thatched hut was also set ablaze by an unknown arsonist. ''I lost everything,'' said 18-year-old expectant mother Chipo Matemo whose husband Daniel Bhobho is a Zanu-PF activist. Police said the incident was being investigated.
Image caption Some had hoped for the election to be held later in the year so there would be more time to prepare but the Constitutional Court ruled it must be held by 31 July. Zanu-PF has been campaigning on a platform of indigenisation and economic empowerment. At its campaign launch in Harare, a spelling mistake was noticed on the main banner. After an hour a sticker was put over the word "indegenise".
Image caption The turnout is expected to be high among the 6.4 million people registered to vote, with tens of thousands of people attending rallies in recent weeks.
Image caption To be declared the victor, a presidential candidate must win more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate reaches this mark, a run-off will be held on 11 September.

And on Tuesday, the MDC accused Zanu-PF of doctoring the roll of registered voters, which was released by the ZEC only on the eve of the polls after weeks of delay.

The MDC claimed the roll dated back to 1985 and was full of anomalies.

A BBC correspondent has seen the document and says it features the names of thousands of dead people.

MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said there were as many as two million such names, while some genuine voters were not on the rolls.

"The greatest worry which we have is the number of persons that are being turned away," he added.

The MDC has handed its evidence to observers from the SADC. But a Zanu-PF spokesman denied the allegations and pointed out that appointees from both parties were on the ZEC.

He also accused Mr Biti, who is finance minister, of not funding the commission properly. The ZEC has not commented.

In addition to Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, there are three other candidates standing for the presidency - Welshman Ncube, leader of the breakaway MDC-Mutambara; Dumiso Dabengwa of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), and Kisinoti Munodei Mukwazhe, who represents the small Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP).

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