ZESN falls short of condemning by-elections

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) fell short of out-rightly condemning the June 10 by-elections as not free and fair when they highlighted a plethora of irregularities in their preliminary statement on the plebiscite.
Delivering the preliminary statement at a press conference Thursday morning (today), ZESN chairperson Irene Petras alleged voter intimidation in the period prior to the voting day.
“Although the polling day was relatively peaceful, the pre-election period was marred by incidences of violence, intimidation and vote buying. On Election Day, ZESN observed intimidation of voters at various polling stations.
“Reports from observers indicated that in a number of constituencies, suspected ZANU PF officials and village heads were recording the details of voters before they arrived at a polling station and after the voter had cast their vote,” Petras said.
She said such reports came from Zabagwali Business Centre in Tsholotsho, Nehumba Primary School in Headlands and Murapa Primary School in Hurungwe.
The electoral body also highlighted that most voters were turned away for turning up in a wrong ward and lacking the required identity documents – a situation they blamed on inadequate voter education.
“Our observers also noted significant numbers of assisted voters especially in rural constituencies. ZESN observer reports therefore reinforce the calls made previously for reforms and improvement to electoral processes.”
One of the major irregularities cited by ZESN was the heavy police presence inside and outside the polling stations which they said had potential to intimidate voters. They said the fact that police personnel were being actively involved in assisting voters was practice against international best norms and standards where the role of the police is limited to maintaining law and order.
The elections were held in Dzivarasekwa, Glen View South, Harare East, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana, Lobengula, Luveve, Makokoba, Pelandaba-Mpopoma, Pumula, Headlands, Dangamvura/Chikanga, Tsholotsho North, Hurungwe West and Mbizo parliamentary constituencies.
The by elections in the 16 constituencies came after the Movement for Democratic Change(MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai had successfully recalled 21 legislators from parliament for forming a splinter group known as MDC Renewal Team.
The MDC formations all boycotted the by-elections insisting there was need for electoral reforms, paving room for a possible ZANU PF landslide victory as they would not face any meaningful challenges from little known opposition parties and independent candidates.

By Byron Mutingwende

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