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|Zimbabwe: 'no Problems In Voting, So Why Should There Be Problems In Counting?' by Kobojunkie: 3:21pm On Mar 31, 2008|
Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)
31 March 2008
Posted to the web 31 March 2008
Elles van Gelder
While the run-up to Zimbabwe's general elections, Saturday, was plagued with irregularities, the voting process itself has been given a relatively clean bill of health by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), which encompasses 38 civic groups.
Presidential, National Assembly, Senate and local government polls took place Mar. 29, the first instance in which all four such elections were held jointly. President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai -- leader of the main faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change -- and independent candidate Simba Makoni were the main contenders for the presidency, while 17 parties contested the remaining polls.
ZESN deployed 8,000 observers to monitor polling. During a press conference in the capital, Harare, it said the ballot was marred by fewer incidents of overt violence than was the case for past votes.
The network further noted that across Zimbabwe the opening of polling stations occurred largely without serious problems, and that the voting process was also mostly free of snags: 71 percent of voting was without any problems, 26 percent affected by minor problems, and three percent by major difficulties. The problems related in part to voters going to the wrong ward to cast ballots, and presentation of incorrect identification documents.
Reporter Elles van Gelder spoke to ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa on Sunday to find out more about the network's assessment of polling.
IPS: President Mugabe's decision to allow police in polling stations, supposedly to assist disabled and illiterate voters, was heavily criticised by the opposition. Did it in fact lead to instances of intimidation?
Noel Kututwa (NK): There has been a police presence in and outside the stations and there have been reports of intimidation. Just the presence of police, mainly in rural areas, is intimidation enough. The police in Zimbabwe are associated with perpetrating violence, threatening the ordinary Zimbabwean, If you get into trouble the police aren't an authority where you go to seek protection.
IPS: Were there difficulties as a result of poor voter education?
NK: The voter education was grossly inadequate. We were banned from doing voter education so it was only ZEC (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) doing voter education, and that was very limited. They deployed voter educators throughout the country, but those voter educators were also not very well trained and they were giving wrong information to the voters. Voters weren't well prepared.
IPS: Do you have fears about irregularities in the counting process?
NK: Everybody is concerned. The results are taking long. The last elections, the results started to come in at midnight of the day of voting. That is a key issue. If results come in tomorrow (Monday), that is very late.
IPS: Isn't the delay caused by the fact of four elections being held at once?
NK: No, this election was very smooth, things went extremely well -- even to our surprise. There were no problems in voting, so why should there be problems in counting? The highest number of voters at one station I heard so far is 1,500. So, we expected the results to be in.
IPS: There were fears that the number of polling stations in urban areas -- known to be opposition strongholds -- would prove too few. Were there enough polling stations, ultimately?
NK: Yes, there were.
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