Harare: Zimbabwe has been accused of printing millions of surplus ballot papers, raising the risk of vote-rigging in Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections.
Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said leaked documents from the government’s security printers showed 9 million ballot papers were ordered for the 5.9 million people registered to vote.
Correspondence from Fidelity Printers, producers of the nation’s banknotes, also showed 600,000 postal ballot papers were requisitioned for a few thousand soldiers, police and civil servants away from their home districts and for diplomats and their families abroad, he said. At least 4 million Zimbabweans living abroad, mostly fugitives from the nation’s economic meltdown and political exiles, are not permitted to vote by mail. Mr. Biti feared that President Robert Mugabe already had victory “in the bag”.
“The credibility gap will be so huge. If he steals the election he will get a temporary reprieve but that will guarantee him a dishonourable, if not bloody, exit. Either way he’s in a no-win situation” and is likely to be forced out of office in coming weeks by the deepening economic crisis and shortage of basic public services, Mr. Biti said.
Opposition groups have also protested over last-minute changes to voting procedures allowing police a supervisory role inside polling stations.
The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network said the police presence intimidated voters and it was investigating proposed alterations to vote-counting and verification arrangements.
The head of the Electoral Commission, Judge George Chiweshe, has not yet responded to the opposition allegations.
Western nations have been barred from sending observers. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008