Polls credibility at stake

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THE credibility of Wednesday’s presidential, parliamentary and council elections is at stake due to several irregularities that took place before and during polling.

NewsDay Editorial

Reports from our news teams across the country indicated that thousands of would-be voters were turned away at several polling stations after their names were inexplicably not found in the contentious voters’ roll. More aspiring voters were turned away despite producing valid voter registration slips.

It is alarming, if not scandalous, that in a country that boasts of over a 90% literacy level there was a huge number of voters who needed assistance to cast their ballots. Some of those assisted to vote were known in the wards they voted in to be literate and were community leaders. It was also alarming that smaller towns had more polling stations than bigger towns and cities.

The mother of all scandals remains the failure by both the Registrar of Voters and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to avail timeously the voters’ roll to contesting parties. Hard copies of the voters’ roll were only dispatched to political parties two days before elections. As of yesterday, not a single political party had had sight of the electronic voters’ roll.

Our laws demand that after voters’ registration, there should be voters’ inspection before an election takes place. This fundamental process was deliberately ignored and up to today no sagacious explanation has been proffered.

It will be difficult for anyone to conclude that the elections were credible, free and fair when voter inspection did not take place, when observers admit that the voters’ roll is not clean and that it was not forwarded to contesting parties way before the elections.

The voters’ roll is the key to any credible elections. If it is not clean, it gives room to allegations of rigging.

Presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday alleged massive rigging through the voters’ roll. He claimed that thousands of people failed to register and were disenfranchised; the voters’ roll was not delivered timeously as required by law; there was no proper inspection of the voters’ roll to verify authenticity, duplication of names on the roll and unauthorised movement of voters from their wards, leading to almost 40% of voters being turned away and disenfranchised.

We were left bewildered yesterday when the Sadc Electoral Commission Forum observer team made an admission that the voters’ roll was “not clean”, but went on to declare the elections “credible, free and fair”. Does peaceful conduct of an election ensure credibility, freeness and fairness?

We expect Zec to expeditiously look into the concerns of Tsvangirai and give the people of Zimbabwe comprehensive answers. Without looking into Tsvangirai’s allegations, who then can fault his declaration that the elections were sham, null and void?

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