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Reports: low turnout in Zimbabwe's one-man election

Latest update : 2008-06-28

Early turnout is "low" in Zimbabwe's presidential run-off after Tsvangirai withdrew from the race, says an electoral observer in an interview with FRANCE 24. The leader of the opposition called on voters to abstain unless their lives are at risk.

Click here to read the commentary by FRANCE 24's Armen Georgian: "Mugabe and Tsvangirai willing to negotiate...what?"


Click here to read the "Reporters" by FRANCE 24's Alex Duval Smith and Caroline Dumay: "Zimbabwe, a nation in exile"

Early turnout in Zimbabwe’s one-man elections was “low”, despite variations between polling stations, an election observer, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, told France 24.

“My colleagues from around the country report that turnout is quite low,” he said, without being able to give precise figures. President Robert Mugabe decided to go ahead with elections on Friday despite the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The latter pulled out of the race saying violence and intimidation meant his supporters would risk their lives by voting.

In Harare, variations in turnout are “quite huge,” according to the observer. “Turnout seems to be higher in poorer neighborhoods and lower in well-off neighbourhoods,” he said

“Judging by the queues in Mbare, a poor neighborhood [in Harare], turnout was quite high,” he said. While the observer said there were no reports of violence and intimidation, Mbare has witnessed some violence and intimidation since the first round of elections on March 29, according to media reports.

Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change, who say the vote is a farce, urged people to abstain but said they should vote if their lives were in danger, according to the AFP. “Don't risk your life. The people's victory may be delayed but it won't be denied," he said in a statement.

The observer says previous violence may have encouraged people to vote in Mbare, but added that it was “premature” to draw conclusions.

“Mugabe’s strategy of terror succeeded”

Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the race last Sunday after a wave of violence left more than 80 of his MDC supporters dead. “Mugabe’s strategy of terror succeeded,” says France 24’s Caroline Dumay. “People are scared.”
The outcome of the election where Mugabe is the only contestant left is clear. In his statement, Tsvangirai warned that the election results would be “meaningless” and that the election amounted to a “shameful humiliation.”
“Mugabe is going to win, of course,” Dumay explained. “But it’s going to be interesting to see how many voters will choose Tsvangirai because his name is still on the ballot.”

An African solution for an African problem?
The international community has widely condemned Mugabe for his autocratic method.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the vote a "sham" and said Washington would consider how to pressure Mugabe at the UN Security Council.
G8 foreign ministers gathered in Kyoto warned in a joint statement that “they would not recognize the legitimacy of a government that doesn’t reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe.”
But, said France 24’s Alex Duval Smith, “the international community has failed to understand that this kind of condemnation irritates Mugabe even more. It’s not because the people he resents and believes have colonized his country condemn him that he’s going to change his mind. What we need is something much tougher like economic sanctions and we’re not there yet.”
For MDC members like Roy Bennett, talking to France 24 from South Africa, “this is an African problem and it needs an African solution.”
 “We have time on our side to get our structures strong and to wait for a time when we may have a free and fair election supported by an African union transitional authority, backed by Sadec, towards a new Constitution and a new Zimbabwe,” Bennett said.

Find out more about the ongoing standoff in our Special Report on "Zimbabwe's political crisis"

Date created : 2008-06-27