Zimbabwe’s political opposition and civil society critics of the government Wednesday expressed alarm at an order by President Robert Mugabe overriding an amendment to the country's Electoral Act to allow police into polling places on election day.
Amendments to the Electoral Act earlier this year obliged police to stay 100 meters away from polling places. Mr. Mugabe's order says police need to be in polling places to help handicapped voters and the illiterate. But the opposition and civic observers say reopening the doors to police will create intimidation, especially of rural voters.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change grouping led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a candidate for president, challenged the presidential order in Harare high court.
Sources at the non-governmental Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it intends to file an appeal in the High court challenging a provision of the country's Citizenship Act which bars Zimbabweans with foreign parents from voting.
The legal group is also considering asking the court to clarify whether a runoff election must be held if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. The language in the electoral act is contradictory on this point, according to legal experts.
In another development touching on the issue of free and fair elections, police have blocked the Tsvangirai MDC grouping from holding rallies in the Highfield section of Harare, Chitungwiza and Victoria Falls. The MDC is seeking court relief.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu that President Mugabe is interfering with the electoral process.