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Special voting chaos latest episode of Zimbabwe’s electoral farce

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The latest episode of the farce which is Zimbabwe’s 31 July election aired this weekend. 14-15 July were the designated dates for “special voting,” in which members of the police and armed forces, who will be on duty on election day and thus unable to go to their regular polling station to vote, are given an opportunity to vote.

As a tweet from @SirNige aptly summed it up, “The special vote currently taking place in Zimbabwe is definitely very special #ZimElections.”

Ever since the Constitution Court said Zimbabwe’s Harmonised Election was to be held as soon as possible, and should be before 31 July, Zimbabwe’s election – which was never going to be without its eyebrow raising moments – has reached new lows.

The fact that the president’s proclamation of the election date was announced and scheduled in an illegal and unconstitutional manner was conveniently swept under the carpet when the same Constitutional Court postponed arguments against the election date, and then waited until after Nomination Court had sat to dismiss the cases.

Add to that, the Constitutionally mandated ward-based mobile voter registration process was reduced to a district-based process, with the government claiming it didn’t have sufficient funds to follow the directive of its own constitution. The voters’ roll coming out of this process is equally problematic, with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) noting serious irregularities with the voters’ roll, particularly the under-registration of urban and young voters. This is consistent with criticisms from organisations like the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Youth Forum on the mobile voter registration exercise.

Meanwhile, a court case on the weekend’s special voting process was meant to be heard today – but was postponed until Wednesday, rendering the court case largely academic as Nehanda Radio points out, since special voting is scheduled to be wrapped up by then.

A 31 July election date meant that special voting had to be held no later than this weekend. As human rights lawyer @tzhuwarara helpfully explained via Twitter, “In terms of Sec 81A(1)(a) of Zim electoral law ZEC MUST set two days only 4 special vote, the last day hz 2 b at least 16 days frm Jul 31.”

But this special voting – which many thought would be a non-event, with police officers lining up to vote as their commanding officers instructed them to – has proved a farce. According to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, many polling stations around the country received material late yesterday, or even today, compromising the polling at these locations. ZESN also noted that some polling stations in Harare were using informal hand-written lists of voters.

These irregularities highlight the inability of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to prepare the necessary logistics for the special vote. But from the beginning, Zimbabwe’s 31 July election has been compromised. It might not be marred by the violence witnessed in 2008, or even experience the types of human rights violations the RFK Centre and Amnesty International note it is vulnerable to.

Napoleon allegedly once said “never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.” Whether through malice or incompetence, Zimbabwe’s 2013 election has been subjected to an illegal process and unprocedural time frame which undermine the legitimacy of this election, and thus the country’s prospects of democratic governance.

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