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Political Playing Field Not Level In Zimbabwe, Says Human Rights Watch

A new report says the upcoming parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe are “skewed” in favor of President Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF. Human Rights Watch says it blames that on “five years of violence, intimidation, voting irregularities and restrictive legislation.”

Tiseke Kasambala is a researcher in the African Division of Human Rights Watch. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the findings of the report.

She says, “We would like to say we have grave concerns about whether or not these elections will be conducted in a free and fair manner. There a number of key concerns that we are highlighting in our report that we feel restrict the ability of Zimbabweans to freely vote and express a opinion on who they want to govern them.”

Asked about the group’s main concerns, she says, “First and foremost, we recorded high levels of intimidation. In addition to that there is the use of restrictive legislation, which affects the ability of people and denies the people access to freely express themselves, freely associate and freely assemble. The opposition has been unable to campaign in a free environment. We’re also looking at the two electoral laws, which we feel do that satisfy the Southern African Development Community’s principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.”

Ms. Kasambala says while Human Rights Watch did not speak to any government officials in its research, it did speak with some high-ranking officials of the ruling ZANU-PF Party. She says it’s not up to the group to say whether the elections will be free and fair, but adds at the current time the political playing field is not level.