Zimbabwe opposition prepares election challenge

Second official resigns from the country’s electoral commission

Supporters of Zanu-PF party celebrate the election results with a coffin wrapped in a Movement for Democratic Change  flag in Mbare township, outside Harare. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Supporters of Zanu-PF party celebrate the election results with a coffin wrapped in a Movement for Democratic Change flag in Mbare township, outside Harare. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 01:00


As Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party yesterday prepared its legal challenge to overturn President Robert Mugabe’s recent electoral victory, a second official resigned from the country’s electoral commission.

Law professor Geoff Feltoe confirmed to reporters he was standing down after the contested parliamentary and presidential poll on July 31st that resulted in Mr Mugabe securing his seventh term in office since he came to power in 1980.

The outcome, which ended a dysfunctional powersharing arrangement between Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and MDC, has plunged the country into its worst political and economic crisis since the disputed general election in 2008.

“Yes, I have resigned [from Zimbabwe’s electoral commission],” Prof Feltoe said.

“I am going back to the university [of Zimbabwe]. I have always intended to do so and I am going there,” he added.

His decision has come days after fellow election official Mkhululi Nyathi quit the nine-member commission because he believed the polls had not met the South African Development Community (SADC) benchmarks for fairness.

Yesterday’s resignation came shortly after MDC announced it was launching a constitutional court challenge against the results of last Wednesday’s poll, which saw its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, secure 34 per cent of the vote as opposed to Mr Mugabe’s 61 per cent.


Disenfranchised
Zanu-PF also hammered MDC in the parliamentary poll, winning 160 of the 210 seats in the lower house compared with 49 seats for MDC.

MDC alleges the poll was rigged by Zanu-PF, which in turn has dismissed the accusation. However, local election monitors say the election was deeply flawed and that up to a million voters were disenfranchised via the manipulation of the voters’ roll.

“Our lawyers are very busy at work,” said MDC spokesperson Morgan Tsvangirai.

“We will be lodging the presidential challenge before Friday.”

If a complaint is lodged, the country’s top court will have 14 days to reach a decision.

Experts believe the MDC’s chances of having the result overturned are slim, because of the huge margin of Mr Mugabe’s victory.

Until now African nations have refused to condemn the poll as fraudulent, saying they would reserve judgment until evidence has been presented. The SADC has said it was “free and peaceful” but stopped short of calling it fair.

However, Australia, the US and many European countries have voiced serious doubts about the freedom and fairness of the poll, which has put African leaders and the West at odds over the outcome.

Botswana yesterday became the first African voice to question the election’s credibility. The southern African country, which had 80 observers overseeing the poll as part of the SADC mission, said it would lobby southern African leaders to have an audit done on the voting process.

“Various incidents and circumstances were revealed that call into question whether the entire electoral process, and thus its final result, can be recognised as having been fair, transparent and credible,” foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said.