Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says 305,000 voters were turned away
Tsvangirai’s legal challenge not expected to succeed due to large margin of victory
Supporters of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party celebrate their victory in Zimbabwe’s election last weekend. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has confirmed that hundreds of thousands of voters were disenfranchised in last week’s disputed election, but the figure released is far lower than the one put forward by Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
MDC, the poll’s big loser, maintained in the days following the July 31st election that up to one million people had been excluded from voting by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, which it accused of rigging the vote.
The party, which had shared power with Zanu-PF since disputed 2008 elections, claimed the former liberation movement manipulated the voters’ roll to illegally win the poll.
However, on Thursday evening the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) released its official election statistics and they put the number of voters turned away on the day at 305,000.
A further 206,000 voters received assistance from election officials to cast their ballot, even though rules state people should be allowed to make their mark in private.
The MDC says that authorities loyal to Mr Mugabe intimidated people to vote for Zanu-PF this way, using the excuse that they are helping people who cannot read to cast their ballot when questioned why they interfere in the process.
Voters were turned away because their names were either not on the voters’ list, or they had been moved to different wards outside their area, or did not have proper identification, according to the ZEC.
In total almost 3.5 million people voted in the general election.
Mr Tsvangirai was expected to make an application in the constitutional court yesterday to challenge the results in response to what he called a “stolen election”.
As part of the application, Mr Tsvangirai is seeking access to all materials used in the election. He has also said a failure by the ZEC to provide electronic copies of the voters’ roll fuelled suspicion that the roll was doctored.
Margin of victory
Analysts believe Mr Tsvangirai’s chances of legally overturning the presidential results, which saw Mr Mugabe secure 61 per cent of the vote to his 34 per cent, are slim due to the margin of victory.
The ZEC’s statistics show the largest number of voters, 64,483, were turned away in the capital Harare, an MDC stronghold where Zanu-PF made significant gains on its political rivals.
But the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an umbrella body for local monitoring groups, said this week that more than 750,000 urban voters were missing from the voters’ register.
The ZEC has often been accused of being unduly influenced by Mr Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, and the MDC’s claim of rigging is backed by local election monitoring groups, as well as western democracy movements and governments.
But African inter-governmental organisations have to date largely accepted the result, lauding it as free and peaceful, if not wholly fair.