Almost six million Zimbabwean voters bravely went to the polls on Saturday to elect a new government. Two days later, the results are still unknown, with the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission promising to release them at 6am Zimbabwean time today (3pm AEDT). Early reports suggest that Mugabe’s opponents, the Movement for Democratic Change, fronted by Morgan Tsvangirai, have secured more than 65% of the vote. The question now becomes, if Robert Mugabe is voted out, how will he react — with great respect or violence? And if voted out, will he relinquish power? While accounts of vote-rigging and corruption have attended the poll, election day was largely free of violence.
Tensions high as result looms. Zimbabweans waited for a long time for the weekend’s crucial vote, but now that it is over, there is a worrying electoral limbo and a growing disquiet about what happens next. It is still not clear, 24 hours after the polls closed, whether ageing autocratic President Robert Mugabe has been dumped by the electorate after 28 years in power. As each hour passes, the tension rises. The Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been quick to claim victory, but the Mugabe Government has ominously warned that a pre-emptive declaration by the Opposition would be tantamount to staging a coup. – Andrew Geoghegan, ABC
Observers allege fraud: African observers charged late on Saturday that they had discovered fraudulent voters’ rolls in the Zimbabwe election, listing more than 8 000 apparently non-existent people. Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament, said that in one Harare constituency, “It has been brought to our attention that out of the 24 678 registered voters, more than 8 450 have been registered under block 081083 … which is a deserted land with a few scattered wooden sheds.” – Mail & Guardian
There are lots of ways to rig an election: … [I]t sure helps to be the incumbent if you’re planning on doing so. Morgan Tsvangirai, the candidate from the opposition MDC party, argues that the government has printed over 9 million ballots, which does seem like a lot for a nation of 5.9 million voters – he believes the excess ballots will be used to stuff ballot boxes. Other forms of rigging may be more subtle. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has recruited 90,000 polling officers, who will oversee voting at polling places. Polling officers are often asked to help illiterate voters cast their votes, which can lead to vote rigging. And the ZEC has primarily recruited schoolteachers – who are government employees – to serve as the polling officers. – Ethan Zuckerman
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OK its almost official but not quite. The Movement for Democratic Change has trounced the “fist of fury”. Way to go. We’ve had two victory press conferences at the Meikles Hotel which are entirely necessary, but its enough already. As Amanda rightly asked, when is the MDC going to reconnect with their supporters who are sitting in the dark, waiting and wondering about the election results? The MDC’s base of support comes from working class people who don’t have access to satellite TV and the Internet. Morgan Tsvangirai should be doing victory laps around high density suburbs, inspiring and preparing Zimbabweans for the next round of the fight for democracy. As we all know winning elections in Zimbabwe don’t necessarily mean a transfer of “power”. – Kubatana Blogs
The streets have a strange energy. People are waiting. Sundays are normally quiet in Harare’s city centre. Today the streets are shuffling from one foot to another like the thirty fourth person in a snaking bread queue. The streets are unsure. Hopeful. Young police recruits patrol the streets trying to stamp an authority they are no longer sure that they have. The cigarette vendor apologises for the high cost of her cigarettes. “Tichadzikisa maprices mangwana”. We will reduce the prices tomorrow. When change comes. The streets are waiting. We woke today to rumours of Mugabe fleeing to Malaysia and news of the MDC press conference. We carried our bababarazi’d selves to the conference after a night of ragga at downtown Harare’s Tube Nightclub. According to the [Movement for Democratic Change’s] counting process they are way ahead in the polls. Victory is on people’s lips. But so is rigging. – Comrade Fatso’s Blog
The margin is key: I never expected to find myself typing these words, but the situation in Zimbabwe is looking up. Initial election results show that Robert Mugabe has probably lost by a significant margin. The margin is really the key here. As I’ve argued before, while Robert Mugabe clearly has no qualms about manipulating election results, he’s also benefited in the past from his genuine popularity amongst at least a sizeable plurality of Zimbabwean voters. This time around, if the voters really have abandoned his regime in the numbers the MDC is predicting, rigging the election will be impossible. – Commentary, South Africa