News / Africa

Zimbabwe Riot Police Deploy on Eve of Tight Election

A Zimbabwean opposition party Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) supporter holds a party newsletter at an election rally, about 90 km (56 miles) east of the capital Harare, July 23, 2013.
A Zimbabwean opposition party Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) supporter holds a party newsletter at an election rally, about 90 km (56 miles) east of the capital Harare, July 23, 2013.
Reuters
Heavily armed riot police deployed in potential election flashpoints in Zimbabwe on Tuesday on the eve of a poll showdown between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that remains too close to call.
 
State radio said thousands of officers had been sent to the central Midlands province, while trucks of police carrying automatic rifles and grenade launchers patrolled in the restive Harare townships of Highfield and Mbare.
 
The run-down districts of the capital are hotbeds of support for Tsvangirai and were at the center of several weeks of post-election violence in 2008, in which 200 people linked to his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were killed.
 
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (at L) and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (at R). Zimbabwe will hold general elections on July 31.Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (at L) and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (at R). Zimbabwe will hold general elections on July 31.
x
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (at L) and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (at R). Zimbabwe will hold general elections on July 31.
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (at L) and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (at R). Zimbabwe will hold general elections on July 31.
This year's presidential and parliamentary race brings the curtain down on four years of fractious unity government. It has been marked by allegations of threats and intimidation by security forces but there have been no reports of violence.
 
With no reliable opinion polls, it is hard to tell whether 61-year-old Tsvangirai will succeed in his third attempt to unseat his 89-year-old rival, who has run the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980.
 
Both the MDC and Mugabe's ZANU-PF party predict landslide victories. However, it is possible neither leading candidate will emerge an outright winner, triggering a Sept. 11 run-off. That is a nightmare scenario for many of Zimbabwe's 13 million people who remember the 2008 violence.
 
Western election observers have been barred, leaving the task of independent oversight to 500 regional and 7,000 domestic monitors. The final results must be released within five days but may come sooner.
 
In an editorial in the domestic News Day newspaper and the Washington Post, Tsvangirai urged African monitors not to give the vote a seal of approval merely because they do not witness any bloodshed.
 
“Mugabe is the world's oldest leader and one of its longest-ruling dictators. He is fixing this election in a more sophisticated fashion than previous ZANU-PF campaigns of beatings, killings and intimidation,” the prime minister wrote.
 
“Mugabe's election-stealing antics have been documented throughout Zimbabwe and beyond. Yet the international community seems apathetic; perhaps Mugabe has been stealing elections for so long the world just rolls its eyes and moves on.”
 
Rallying supporters he calls “soldiers,” Mugabe has termed the election a “do or die” contest, suggesting he recognizes that his historical legacy is at stake.
 
Protracted crisis 'likely'
 
Given irregularities and problems that have dogged the election process so far, including failure to publish an updated voters' roll, the result is highly likely to be contested, raising the prospect of another long political stalemate.
 
In 2008, South Africa and other countries in the region brokered a unity government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai to break a deadlock caused by the MDC's withdrawal from a second-round runoff because of the violence and killings.
 
“A return to protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, is likely,” the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based political risk think-tank, said in a report issued on Monday entitled “Mugabe's Last Stand”.
 
It also criticized the chaotic organization of the election.
 
Around a third of 63,000 police officers and civil servants allowed to vote two weeks early were unable to cast their ballots because voting materials did not turn up on time.
 
The existing list of the 6.3 million registered voters has also attracted criticism from the MDC and analysts.
 
In a study comparing the list to a 2012 census, the Research and Advocacy Group, a non-governmental organization, said young people - the main support base for Tsvangirai - were under-represented, while old people - more likely to be ZANU-PF supporters - were curiously numerous on the roll.
 
In particular, it cited the presence of more than 116,000 people aged over 100 and said that in almost a third of constituencies there were more registered voters than residents.
 
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has rejected charges the voters' register is a shambles and has accused critics of seeking to discredit the election out of political interests.
 
But the alleged irregularities, combined with openly partisan security forces and biased state media clearly backing Mugabe's ZANU-PF, have intensified doubts in Western capitals about declaring the elections free and far.
 
That verdict is crucial to the lifting of Western sanctions against Mugabe and his inner circle, a move that would allow Harare to normalize relations with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and access the huge amounts of investment needed to rebuild its dilapidated economy.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs