- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) yesterday released vote counts from last Thursday’s elections that, it says, prove ballot-box stuffing and “massive fraud” by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which has ruled the country since 1980, won 78 of the 120 contested seats, compared with 41 for the MDC. One seat went to an independent candidate.

Yesterday’s accusations by the MDC are based on the government’s count of voters in each electorate. In one region, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) recorded that 8,579 persons passed through the polling station, yet when ZEC’s official results were announced, ZANU-PF claimed to have received 19,200 votes.

The chairman of the ZEC is appointed by Mr. Mugabe.

Paul Themba Nyathi, an MDC spokesman, said last night that “in 30 constituencies, there are serious and unaccountable gaps between the ZEC’s official pronouncement of the votes cast and the final totals accorded to each candidate.”

The new figures indicated, he said, that the MDC had won at least 62 of the 120 seats.

Discrepancies in the 30 electorates ranged from a few thousand votes to extreme cases in which the official tally almost doubled when the final results were released.

The MDC claims that at 7:30 p.m. on election day, 90 minutes after the polling stations had closed, a ZEC official began broadcasting the total number of voters who had cast their ballots in each of the 120 electorates.

After voting totals for 72 seats had been announced on state radio, the broadcast was abruptly terminated and, by last night, the ZEC was still refusing to give figures for the remaining 48 districts.

In the next two days, the winning and losing candidates were announced — along with how many votes each had received — after which the MDC compared these totals with those from the original broadcast.

The calculations, Mr. Nyathi said, “indicate massive electoral fraud by the ruling party.”

According to the ZEC, in Makoni North — between the capital, Harare, and the eastern border with Mozambique — 14,068 persons voted. However, ZEC announced that ZANU-PF received 18,910 votes, with 6,077 going to the MDC.

At Beit Bridge on the South African border, votes appeared to have been lost when the ZEC announced that 36,821 persons took part, but total votes for both candidates came to just 20,602.

But the most glaring case was at Murehwa South, 50 miles from Harare. The final figures gave ZANU-PF 19,200 in an electorate where only 8,579 persons had voted.

Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Harare criticized the election. A spokesman said there was particular concern “about the lack of transparency in the tabulation of vote counts.” On election day, U.S. diplomats visited more than 350 polling stations in 59 areas.

On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, condemned the elections, saying, “The process had not been free and fair. … The electoral playing field was heavily tilted in the government’s favor.”

“Freedom of assembly was constrained, food was used as a weapon to sway hungry voters and millions of Zimbabweans who have been forced by the nation’s economic collapse to emigrate were disenfranchised,” she said

In 2002, Mr. Mugabe won the presidential election, but many Western countries, including the United States, refused to recognize the result after observers reported widespread violence and intimidation.

In 1987, Mr. Mugabe granted himself the power to appoint 30 additional members to parliament, which — based on the election results — will give his party a two-thirds majority in the 150-seat house. That is the margin needed to amend the constitution.

MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has called for a rerun of the election.

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