Zimbabwe: Call to boycott elections

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 25 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - A Zimbabwean NGO, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), has urged political parties to boycott elections until the country gets a new and democratic constitution.

NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku made the call after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) issued a press statement calling on voters to check their names on the voters' roll as the country prepares for by-elections in 17 districts and urban centres.

Madhuku alleged that any election held under the present constitution would allow the ruling ZANU-PF party to subvert the will of the people.

"The NCA still believes that any elections held under the current constitution should be boycotted - the next by-elections will be as much of a fraud as all those held in Zimbabwe since independence. The country needs a new, all-inclusive constitution and independent electoral management bodies," Madhuku said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has already filed papers challenging ZANU-PF victories in 13 constituencies in the March parliamentary elections, based on alleged disparities in the voters' roll and irregularities in the vote count.

Brian Kagoro, chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said constitutional change was vital to holding free and fair elections, and any election using the current voters' roll would produce the same results - a victory for ZANU-PF.

"ZANU-PF will win any election under the present constitution, and as long as the Zimbabwe Electoral Act stays. Without an independent electoral commission, we can expect ZANU-PF to claim more discredited victories - it is up to Zimbabweans to stop the elections and demand a new constitutional order before any fresh election is held," Kagoro commented.

Daniel Molokela, a Zimbabwean political analyst based in Johannesburg, told IRIN that nothing new would come from elections held under the current constitution.

"The constitution is the centre of all the problems in Zimbabwe: it virtually surrenders the people to the wishes of one party and its president. Anything done under the current order will only serve the interests of the president and the ruling elite," said Molokela.

MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi said the party's position was that there were enough glaring irregularities on the voters' roll to discredit it. He could not say whether the party would participate in the by-elections, the dates of which are yet to be announced.

However, Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede said the voters' roll was in good order. Complaining about the voters' roll had become a post-election occupation for the opposition, and a boycott would not stop the upcoming by-elections.

"As far as we are concerned, the voters' roll is in good order. We have relied on it to hold democratic elections since 1980; we shall be using it as it is for the by-elections as advertised. The MDC complain when they lose elections, but hold victory celebrations when they win others under the same conditions," Mudede noted.

"Is that not funny enough to show there is something hollow with their complaints? Are they suggesting that there was a different roll in the constituencies they won than where ZANU-PF won?" he asked.


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