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Home | ZimCrisis#57 -- Fears of Reduced Poll Monitoring

Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000 11:24:08 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#57 -- Fears of Reduced Poll Monitoring
Cc: "Australian government":;, "British government":;,
"Canadian government":
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20 June 2000

The extensive powers of the Elections Directorate have been further boosted by the failure today of the Electoral Supervision Commission to challenge statutory instrument 161A and 180 of 2000 - which gave the Registrar General the capacity to accredit monitors, observers and journalists.

The statutory instruments were promulgated on June 7 in terms of the wide sweeping Presidential Powers Act. It was the first of two changes to electoral laws in the fortnight before elections. The ESC defeat came in the Harare High Court today when Judge Chidyausika ruled against them.

What the ruling means, in essence, is that only one observer or monitor will be at each polling station. The judge said observers were different from monitors and there was nothing wrong with the Electoral Directorate bringing stipulations with regard to observers under their wing. There was nothing unconstitutional with the Registrar General accrediting observers and monitors.

The Movement for Democratic Change has expressed its concern over the potential that reduced numbers of monitors observing the electoral process can heighten the risk of electoral fraud and intimidation of individual voters. "We are concerned that at this stage it appears that monitors may have to be awake over four days and four nights - two days of voting, and two days of vote counting - or 96 hours," MDC Elections Director, Paul Nyathi said.

"We hope we will be able to rotate polling agents. It will be impossible for an individual to remain awake for such a long period of time. We have trained 15 000 polling agents for the 5 000 constituencies, anticipating that the law would remain at two polling agents and one reserve. That has now changed. We hope we will be able to put them on a shift basis.

"There is incredible confusion over the electoral process. Government has failed to publish a list of polling stations - only three days away from voting. There is too much uncertainty and too little clarity. This in itself impacts on the fairness of the voting process," Nyathi said. "There has been a process of progressive disenfranchisement which has disturbed us - ranging from huge numbers of young people who registered being left off the voters rolls, to ZanuPF thugs going onto farms and villages seizing or burning people's identity documents, to direct attacks on candidates, polling agents and members.

"This decision gives enormous powers to the elections directorate. We are concerned that they appear not to be coping with the process and are not following their own law to the letter - earlier today we complained about irregularities in postal votes and will lodge a High Court action tomorrow morning with regard to the postal ballot process.

"Because of violence and intimidation directed against our electoral agents and polling agents - including beatings from ZanuPF thugs: leading to the hospitalisation of some of our agents, burning their houses, seizing their documents and generally terrorising them we will not have polling agents at four polls. The four are in Gokwe South, Zhombe, Gutu South and Bikita West.

"We are also concerned that not a single Zimbabwe based election monitoring organisation has been accredited yet and we can only believe this is because of past critical reports from those organisations saying, with the wealth of their experience and research that the likelihood of these elections being free and fair is not good," Nyathi said.

The ESC is to lodge an appeal against the decision.

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