Zanu-PF Vs. MDC; Neck-On-Neck

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[Zimbabwe Elections]



Vote counting for the March 29 Zimbabwe poll is underway and latest results  indicate that Zanu PF and the opposition MDC are neck-on-neck in this tightly contested election.

With 131 of the 210 parliamentary seats declared so far (2pm Zimbabwe time, April 1), the ruling Zanu PF party is leading with 63 seats while Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction MDC is following closely with 62 seats and a breakaway MDC faction has taken only six seats.

The results for the presidential election have not been announced three days after the end of voting. Zimbabwe Election Commission chairman Justice George Chiweshe says the delay was due to the complexity of the poll which covered the presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and council elections all in one vote.

He added that the verification exercise was rigorous and sought to ensure an honest and accurate vote count.

The March 29 vote went largely peaceful with minor skirmishes despite allegations of rigging by the opposition MDC and governments in the West.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) observer groups said the Zimbabwe vote was democratic, fair and transparent while the Pan African Parliament team said conditions for free and fair elections were reflected in the polls.

The observer groups also described the pre-election and voting periods as having been peaceful and conducive for free and fair elections.

"At all the polling stations visited, the ACP mission observed that polling material and facilities were in order and that the procedures were correctly followed in terms of the closure, sealing and layout of the ballot boxes, guiding of voters, stamping of ballot
papers, secrecy of the ballot, etc.

"In all cases, agents of at least two of the contesting parties were present. The voting operations were conducted in an orderly manner at all eight polling stations where voting was observed," the ACP said in a statement.

The ACP observer mission said in a few cases, voters could not cast their votes because their names were not on the voters’ roll of the particular polling station or because they did not have the proper identification documents.

"However, this only occurred in very few cases. The ACP observer mission observed no malpractice or irregularity at any of the stations visited.

"The ACP Election Observer Mission was particularly impressed by the calm and peaceful atmosphere that prevailed before, during and immediately after polling day. From what it observed, the mission views the conduct of the voting process as orderly, transparent,
democratic and fair."

In a statement released recently, the Pan African Parliament team said campaigning took place in an environment of peace, order and high levels of tolerance while voting was conducted in a transparent and efficient manner.

"It is the mission’s view that the irregularities that were detected were not so major as to compromise the flow of the electoral process.

"On the overall, the basic conditions of credible, free and fair elections as contained in the OAU/African Union Declaration on the Principles of Governing Democratic Elections in Africa of 2002 were reflected in the Zimbabwe Harmonized Elections, thus far," the PAP said in an interim statement.

The AU parliamentary arm hailed the Zimbabwe police for their professional conduct saying they displayed a "high degree of professionalism on the voting day inside and outside the polling stations."

The PAP mission said certain allegations made by some stakeholders were proved to be unfounded and baseless.

The Sadc observer group has also declared the polls as having been peaceful and a credible expression of the will of the people.

In a preliminary statement released on Sunday, the Sadc group said vote counting at the polling stations was conducted "meticulously and lawfully”.

Zanu PF continued to dominate in its rural strongholds despite the fact that MDC has also made inroads by snatching more than 10 rural constituencies. In the MDC dominated urban stronghold, Zanu PF also managed to claim victory in a number of constituencies.

President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980 when Zimbabwe attained independence is seeking a sixth term in this tightly contested election in which his main rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and his former finance minister Simba Makoni, who defected from Zanu PF are also gunning for the number one job –the presidency.

The United States, Britain, Canada and five other European countries called on the ZEC to speedily announce the poll results amid claims by the MDC that Zanu PF was planning to rig the outcome.

“We've made very clear our concerns about how this election might be conducted, given the very bad record of Mugabe concerning his people, the opposition and the region," Rice told reporters during her Middle East trip recently.

"We've tried to make a case ... that there needed to be free and fair elections in Zimbabwe as much as it was possible. It's difficult since really no international observation was allowed," she claimed on Sunday.

"But really, the Mugabe regime is a disgrace to the people of Zimbabwe and a disgrace to southern Africa and to the continent of Africa as whole."

But Information and Publicity Minister Dr. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu hit back. "Those who want to interfere with ZEC are finding an excuse that the elections were not free and fair. These are alarmists who are afraid of losing. When they lose they cry foul but when they win they don’t denounce the process, why?" he told the Zimbabwe Herald.

Dr. Ndlovu said political parties should be mature and lose with dignity and also win with magnanimity.

"Any form of violence should not be tolerated. Our law enforcement agents are ready to quell any sponsored or non-sponsored violence. No Kenya style of violence will happen in the country like what was predicted by the MDC," he said.

There are mixed predictions to the polls. Some analysts say the ruling Zanu PF party will poll a total of between 102 to 103 seats against a total of between 96 to 98 constituencies won by MDC-Tsvangirai and six for independent candidates and the MDC breakaway party.

They are also predicting a 51 - 53 percent for Mugabe and 46 - 48 percent win for Tsvangirai and around 4 percent for Makoni.

Tsiko is The Black Star News's Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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