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Independent Electoral Organizations Question Outcome of Mutasa South Parliamentary By-election Results

Some women checking their names on the voters' roll outside a polling station in Bulawayo. (VOA)
Some women checking their names on the voters' roll outside a polling station in Bulawayo. (VOA)

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Election Resource Center have questioned by-electoon results of the Mutasa South constituency saying indications are that local people were coerced to vote for the ruling Zanu PF party.

In its preliminary report of the by-elections held last Saturday, the ZESN and ERC said, “It is not possible to verify the results for Mutasa South … Observers reported high turnout and vote share for a number of polling stations. While the average turnout for Mutasa South was approximately 35%, all of these polling stations had a turnout of over 50%. At the same time, over 90% of votes were cast for ZANU PF while for the constituency as a whole ZANU PF received only slightly over 50% of the vote.

“These are indicators of community coercion and that voters were not able to freely participate in the elections. Given that the official margin of victory was only 549 votes, this community coercion undermines the credibility of the Mutasa South election and the legitimacy of the outcome.”

ZESN and ERC, which deployed observers in most polling stations nationwide, noted that there were activities before and during the voting process that qualify as vote buying. According to the two organizations, they included the use of food to sway voters.

ZESN deployed more than 400 trained and accredited election day observers including deploying 206 observers to six priority constituencies; Binga North, Chivi South, Epworth, Kwekwe Central, Murewa South, and Mutasa South where Sample-Based Observations (SBOs) were conducted using a statistically representative sample of polling stations.

“Given the timing, it was not possible to conduct SBOs for all 28 by-elections. These six constituencies were selected to provide geographic spread and to reflect the political diversity of the country.”

ZESN and ERC said voter information and education associated with the voter registration process were not comprehensive enough ahead of the by-elections.

“This shortcoming in public engagement, when viewed alongside the administration of the two different voters’ rolls in constituencies where there are concurrent elections for the National Assembly and Ward by-elections, has resulted in confusion amongst voters in the affected areas. Stakeholders have also expressed concern over the quality and integrity of the voters’ roll, which was further compounded by the delay by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) in sharing the official voters’ roll for analysis.”

They also said the political environment during the pre-election period was marred by political violence resulting in the loss of life for a Citizens Coalition for Change supporter in Mbizo, Kwekwe District, and election- related intimidation. “ERC and ZESN unreservedly condemn any form of violence and the attempt to limit electoral competition through the restriction of campaign activities. Political rights are protected in Section 67 of the Constitution and all stakeholders are enjoined to always promote the Constitution.”

Zanu PF says it performed well in the by-elections as it gained two key constituencies that were under the opposition and retained all its seats which were up for grabs.