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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More