MDC wants poll results in 12 hrs

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC says it wants upcoming watershed general election results announced in 12 hours, saying this will kill off any attempts of rigging the final result.

This follows the embarrassing debacle in 2008 when election results were announced after five weeks amid accusations of manipulation.

Five years after President Robert Mugabe’s disputed re-election in a poll that took weeks to announce the outcome, raising doubts over the credibility of the results, MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti yesterday told a gathering of thousands of MDC supporters at a rally in Harare that they will not countenance a repeat of that scenario.

Biti said if their election needs were not met, they will be forced to take matters into their own hands.

“We are giving Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) 12 hours to announce results or else we will be in Stewart Room (in the Meikles Hotel) announcing that Save (Tsvangirai) has 75 percent,” he said.

The new Zimbabwean constitution states that the electoral commission should make sure “the results of the election or referendum are announced as soon as possible after the close of the polls.”

The three ruling parties amended the Electoral Act so that the Zec is obliged to declare presidential election results not more than five days after the day of voting.

Biti said if other countries who have more than 90 million voters like the United States of America could announce results within hours, he did not see why Zimbabwe with around six million voters could not follow suit.

Biti was outlining the MDC’s minimum conditions for the next election expected to end the Government of National Unity which President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara were forced into after a disputed presidential run-off poll in June 2008.

Though the date of elections has remained a contentious issue between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, both parties say they have had enough of the coalition government and are ready for fresh polls.

Biti, who is also Finance minister in the coalition government, said MDC wants the newly-appointed Zec boss Rita Makarau to be the one announcing the results.

“As it is, the chief election officer who is (Lovemore) Sekeramayi has the mandate of announcing the results but we want Rita Makarau to announce the results,” Biti said.

The Electoral Act however, mandates the chief elections officer to announce the results.

The MDC secretary-general said his party wanted to be given fair airplay on State-controlled TV and radio and adequate coverage in the public media as stated by the new constitution.

He said the Premier should be given space and not the “usual propaganda perpetrated” by the public media.

Under the new constitutional order, there are  provision for  “all political parties and candidates contesting an election or participating in a referendum with fair and equal access to electronic and print media, both public and private.”

Other amendments would also bar police officers — who were accused in the last poll of abusing their power to help disabled or illiterate voters to cast their ballots — from “taking part or interfering with the electoral process beyond maintaining law and order.”

Zec will also be empowered to warn election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence and to set up special courts to try such cases.

Biti demanded that the Zec secretariat — which critics say is packed with Mugabe supporters and intelligence operatives — must be wholly reformed.

The lawyer-cum-politician said the environment around the poll should ensure  “security of the voter, security of the vote and security of the people’s will”.

Biti said for security of the voter to be guaranteed, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic), mandated to implement peace, should be strengthened.

He said no police officers should be allowed inside the polling stations, no violence should be faced by voters, and election observers from across the world should be allowed to witness the historic election.

“People should be allowed to campaign freely and the police should be able to justify why they would want any meeting to be stopped,” he said. - Bridget Mananavire

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