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Group Warns of Violence Leading Up to Zimbabwe Election Runoff

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission announced Friday that there will be a run-off presidential election. In announcing the results, it said that MDC opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai failed to win an outright majority, needed to avoid a runoff.

The commission says Tsvangirai won 47.9 percent of the vote compared to incumbent president Robert Mugabe’s 43.2 percent. The MDC called the results scandalous and said Tsvangirai did win outright.

The Zimbabwe government Friday denied accusations it was behind a campaign of intimidation and violence aimed at intimidating supporters of the opposition.

For an analysis of the election results in Zimbabwe, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke to Phillip Pasirayi, a senior program associate with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in Washington, DC.

“I think this vindicates what we’ve always been saying, that there is a threat to the integrity of the whole electoral process. These results are now being announced after three weeks, after the election had been held. And the opposition is justified to question the sincerity of the ZANU-PF and also arguing that the results have tampered with. So, I think this is an argument that makes sense to me,” he says.

In interpreting the official election results, Pasirayi says, “These are the figures that were given by the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network. But according to the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network and other non-governmental organizations that observed the March 29th elections, the highest possible percentage of the votes that were got by the MDC is 50.3 percent. So, what (ruling party) ZANU-PF has essentially done is to take the lowest possible in terms of the statistics that were announced by independent non-governmental organizations to give some sense of credibility to the whole process. But I think the MDC has won overwhelmingly…and ZANU-PF is just trying to hold onto power and is noy prepared to give up.”

Pasirayi says that he’s not surprised by the results. It would have been surprising, he says, if the electoral commission had said Tsvangirai had won outright and that a runoff was not needed.

He warns of an upsurge in violence leading up to a runoff, saying war veterans and youth militia are already “perpetrating violence against rural voters who voted for the MDC. So the infrastructure of violence is already in place.” He’s says the MDC must be careful not to be over confident at this stage, adding the opposition party would be wise to call for international observers.