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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Avoids Tough Questions

VZCZCXRO1288
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0226/01 0811021
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211021Z MAR 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2615
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1884
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1827
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1951
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0530
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1228
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1585
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2007
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4438
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1078
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000226

SIPDIS

AF/S FOR S.HILL
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
TREASURY FOR J.RALYEA AND T.RAND
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN
COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL
CIA WASHDC

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL COMMISSION AVOIDS TOUGH QUESTIONS


--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. (U) The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on March 18 gave a
three-hour briefing to stakeholders on the mechanics of the election
process. The commission, however, left unanswered key questions on
the role of the police, bias in the media, and presence of police in
polling stations. END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------
ZEC Shows Signs of Bias
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) dodged many of the
important questions concerning Zimbabwe's harmonized 29 March
elections in a three-hour public briefing held on 18 March.
Addressing an apparent contradiction in the Electoral Act, the ZEC
declined to give an opinion on whether the law required a runoff if
no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. The ZEC
also did not address concerns about President Mugabe's amendment
this week to the Electoral Act permitting the presence of police
officers in polling stations. Finally, the ZEC refused to answer
questions about statements of the head of the Defense Force and the
Prison Chief that they would not serve under anyone but President
Mugabe.

3. (SBU) Although ZEC's presidentially-appointed chairman tried to
maintain an appearance of impartiality throughout the briefing, he
repeatedly questioned the affiliation of a MDC-Tsvangarai audience
member and occasionally stated he did not understand the concerns of
audience members about the role of the police and the ability of
political party agents and observers to adequately monitor election
procedures. The ZEC chairman stated that the commission had to
balance the interests of political parties in seeking to play an
oversight role with the commission's interest in a smooth election
process. The commission also dismissed concerns about the
objectivity of news media coverage of the election and access of the
opposition to the media.

--------------------
Election Mechanics
--------------------

4. (U) The ZEC stated the ballot papers will be white for the
presidential election, green for the senatorial election, blue for
the House of Assembly and yellow for the local government election
with a correspondingly colored ballot box for each election. The
ZEC chairman emphasized that voters had to cast their ballots in
their wards and "nowhere else". Per the SADC guidelines, voting
would be held on one day, March 29, from 7 am to 7 pm. Everyone who
was in line by 7 pm would be able to vote, assuming they were
eligible. There are now 5.9 million registered voters; 300,000
additional voters were added to the rolls during the two-week voter
registration period in February.

5. (U) The ZEC said it had identified 8998 polling stations, and
confirmed press reports there will be composite polling stations
(multiple voting stations within the polling station) in urban areas
to accommodate the larger numbers of voters per polling station, but
refused to give any details about them. The ZEC deferred to the
Chief Elections Officer to formally clarify the locations and
logistics of the composite polling stations at a later date. The
ZEC has plans to deploy 90,000 polling officers and still has to
recruit and train them. The polling officers will be recruited from
government ministries and departments, parastatals, local
authorities, and health services officials.


HARARE 00000226 002 OF 002


6. (U) The votes for the presidential election from each ward will
be transmitted to a constituency tabulation center, then to the
provincial tabulation center, and finally to the national command
center where the winner will be announced. The ZEC said there would
be no observers or representatives from political parties at the
national command center because no voting or vote counting would
take place there.

---------------------------------
The role of the security services
---------------------------------

7. (SBU) According to the ZEC, the Zimbabwe Defense Force (ZDF),
the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), and the Air Force are among a
number of government ministries and parastatals who will assist with
election logistics, although how they will assist was not discussed.
According to the ZEC, only the ZRP submitted a nominal roll for
postal balloting. However, other applications for a postal ballot
could still be coming through the mail. The ZEC confirmed that
postal ballot voting can be monitored by the political parties. The
postal ballot boxes will be declared empty and sealed at the ZEC
head office. (NOTE: There are up to 200,000 people, including
military, police, diplomats overseas and individuals involved in
administering and monitoring the elections, who are eligible to use
a postal ballot; thus, it is likely that the number of postal
ballots will rise before the election.)

-------------------------------
Will the Election Turn Violent?
-------------------------------

8. (U) Indicating the level of concern about post-election violence
in Zimbabwe, one of the first questions asked was how the ZEC was
preparing voters to avoid Kenyan-style violence. The ZEC discounted
the potential for Kenyan style post-election violence, saying that
Zimbabweans did not have the same composition of ethnic groups as
Kenya and that Zimbabweans were "mature"

-------
Comment
-------

9. (SBU) The ZEC is generally considered a tool of the government
and its responses at the briefing did little to inspire confidence
in its ability to fairly oversee the election. With a compromised
ZEC, the role of observers, particularly ZESN, becomes even more
important. We are particularly concerned that, although there will
be observers at the polling stations where counting occurs,
observers will apparently not be present at tabulation centers and
the national command center in Harare which will announce
presidential results.

MCGEE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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