9 Aug 2013

Serious mistakes admitted in Zimbabwe elections

10:40 am on 9 August 2013

Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission has for the first time acknowledged serious mistakes in last week's elections, which the opposition says were rigged.

It says nearly 305,000 voters were turned away and 207,000 were "assisted" to cast their ballot - another alleged source of fraud, the BBC reports.

President Robert Mugabe won 61% of the vote compared to the 34% for his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, who has claimed widespread vote-rigging. Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party is planning to file court applications against the results of both the presidential and parliamentary votes.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF gained a two-thirds majority in parliament, with 160 seats (up 61 seats from the last election in 2008) against 49 for the MDC (down 51).

Western observers were not invited to witness the 31 July vote but African and regional monitors praised it for being peaceful, while noting some irregularities.

However, a local observer group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which deployed 7000 observers, has said that about one million voters were "systematically disenfranchised" by being omitted from the voters' roll or turned away.

The roll has come in for criticism for having duplicate names and the names of dead Zimbabweans - the MDC says it has found 838,000 entries with the same name, address and date of birth but different ID number; 350,000 people who are more than 85 years old; and 109,000 aged over 100.

The MDC, which was in a coalition with Zanu-PF for four years after the disputed election result of 2008, is expected file its appeals by Wednesday 14 August at the latest. The court then has 14 days to deliver a judgment. If it upholds the results, Mr Mugabe must be sworn in within 48 hours of the ruling.

Mugabe attacks 'British and their allies'

A week after the election, Mr Mugabe dismissed criticism of the polls and lashed out at Western countries for their concerns about the vote.

"We are very happy that we have dealt the enemy a blow, and the enemy is not Tsvangirai," the AFP news agency quotes him as saying. "Tsvangirai is a mere part of the enemy. The enemy is he who is behind Tsvangirai. Who is behind the MDC? The British and their allies. Those are the ones who were the real enemies."

Mr Mugabe has long accused the British of trying to oust him from power in its former colony because of his policy of seizing white-owned land.