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Cablegate: Embassy Harare Election Observations: A Positive

VZCZCXRO2511
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0270/01 0941540
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031540Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2678
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1871
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1994
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0567
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1271
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1628
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2050
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4481
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUAEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1121
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000270

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SES-O
AF/S FOR S. HILL,
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS
STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: EMBASSY HARARE ELECTION OBSERVATIONS: A POSITIVE
EXPERIENCE

REF: HARARE 00245

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Embassy Harare deployed 11 teams to observe
elections on March 29; all reported that voting took place in a calm
and orderly manner. Observer teams were generally well-received at
polling stations and throughout the different constituencies,
including ruling party strongholds. All teams noted a sense of
excitement coming from the electorate. Election officials paid
particular attention to showing that the voting process on Election
Day was transparent and fair. Police had a noticeable presence in
all polling stations and interacted cordially and professionally
with observer teams. The teams were impressed by the apparent
overall quality of the voting process on Election Day. END
SUMMARY.

----------------------------
Observer Teams Well-Received
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Embassy Harare deployed 11 teams in the country's 10
provinces to observe the harmonized elections on March 29. The
teams primarily covered remote rural areas visiting polling stations
and speaking with the public. Each team included one accredited
embassy officer, one local embassy employee and for som teams an
unaccredited American, and a driver. Only the accredited American
was able to enter the polling stations. Observer teams were
generally well-received at polling stations and throughout the
different constituencies. The public appeared excited to see and
talk with our teams. And, in two locations, the queue of voters
actually broke out into applause when the observer team arrived.

3. (SBU) Our non-accredited team members were able to interview
voters and the general public without interference or intimidation.
We heard a few isolated reports of apparent efforts at voter
intimidation and manipulation, such as ruling party supporters
writing down names of voters or promising bags of mealie meal if a
person showed a ZANU-PF card and voted. In all cases, police acted
to stop the suspect activity. One presiding officer in the
Chimanimani West constituency in Manicaland province told us that
she was confident police would act properly and prevent such
activities because no one at the polling station wanted a complaint
entered into "the book."

4. (SBU) Throughout Election Day, we found the public eager to
discuss election conditions, but in a show of the palpable fear
surrounding politics in the country, nearly everyone we asked at the
end of a discussion refused to identify their party allegiance -
many simply walked away without responding. In between polling
stations, mostly along dirt roads in rural areas, groups and
individuals frequently would smile and give the open hand sign of
the MDC. Many of those we spoke with, including several police
officers working at polling stations, said the country needed
"change" - indicating support for the MDC.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Election Day Voting Process Organized and Transparent
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) Observer teams noted a high-level of attention to procedure
and transparency demonstrated by the election officials. Polling
stations for the most part were well organized, equipped, prepared,
and managed. Election officials tended to be school teachers from
the surrounding area, but not from the immediate school polling
station; the presiding officer tended to be a school headmaster or
deputy headmaster.

6. (SBU) At most polling stations, the presiding officers and
election officials were accessible and freely answered questions
about the process. Many took pride in showing log books

HARARE 00000270 002 OF 003


meticulously detailing voting activities, including the number of
voters assisted and turned away. We received a cold response from
election officials and police at a few polling stations, especially
in the Mt. Darwin constituency in Mashonaland Central province - a
ruling party stronghold and the constituency of Vice-president Joice
Mujuru. However, several persons near a polling station in Mt.
Darwin approached our team and thanked us for taking an interest in
the elections.

7. (SBU) For the most part, polling stations opened on time. In one
instance in the Binga South constituency in Matabeleland North
province, the polling station opened at 10:45 am because the voters
roll had not been delivered. By early afternoon, the wait to vote
was more than an hour and growing. The presiding officer, however,
secured another voter booth from a neighboring polling station and a
second copy of voter rolls to speed up the process.

8. (SBU) At the closing of polls, our observers noted that the
presiding officers showed discipline in conducting the vote count
and verification. The presiding officers conferred with the other
election officers, party agents, and observers with each step in the
process. In most cases, the proceedings were quiet and orderly,
with little or no reaction to the actual returns. In one polling
station in the Bulawayo constituency, after it was announced that
President Mugabe received only a paltry eight votes, everyone in the
room burst into laugher when the party agent for one of the MDC
formations said "as it should be."

9. (SBU) Our observer teams were allowed to view vote counting
exercises; however, in one instance in the Chiredzi constituency,
the presiding officer required the police to radio the constituency
command center to seek permission for our accredited embassy
observer to attend the proceedings. Permission was finally granted.
In the Kadoma Central constituency in the Mashonaland West
province, our observer noted that police were radioing in results to
an unknown location.

----------------------------
A Noticeable Police Presence
----------------------------

10. (SBU) Police were present in all polling stations and generally
interacted cordially and professionally with observer teams. No
overtly intimidating behavior was observed by teams; however, police
presence was clear, and their authority was understood.

11. (SBU) At several polling stations we visited, police stationed
inside had an active roll in the process beyond simply participating
in voter assistance. In one polling station in the Chiredzi South
constituency in Masvingo province, we observed a police officer
sitting at the registration table in front of the voter rolls busily
transcribing data from the rolls and the log book into a notebook.
In one polling station in Binga South constituency, voters appeared
to instinctively look to the police officer rather than the
presiding officer for permission to drop the ballot in the box.

12. (SBU) A pre-election concern had been an inadequate number of
polling stations in urban areas, particularly Harare. While we
observed long lines in some areas of Harare in the morning, there
were no lines when the polls closed and no reports of people unable
to vote.

13. (SBU) The only significant problem observed was voters unable
to vote because their names did not appear on the voter rolls. In a
few polling stations, almost 50 percent of people were turned away.
On average, about 15 percent were not allowed to vote. We suspect
some of these individuals located their names on voter rolls in
other wards.


HARARE 00000270 003 OF 003


-------
COMMENT
-------

14. (SBU) Despite inadequate pre-election preparations and sporadic
reports of intimidation and manipulation, the voting process on
Election Da was generally well-managed and orderly. Unfortunately,
the same cannot be said of the pre-election environment and the
post-election tabulation and reporting process. END COMMENT.

MCGEE

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