April 3, 2005

ZANU-PF wins two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections

The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections, clearing the way for the President to change Zimbabwe’s constitution - despite the opposition’s refusal to accept the result and widespread accusations that the vote was flawed. “This is a moment of victory for my party and the victory of my party translates itself, naturally, into a victory for our country,” declared a jubilant Mugabe as the final votes were being counted.
According to the results, the ZANU-PF won 78 seats, compared to 41 for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Two of Mugabe’s nephews won seats, as did his sister Sabrina. One surprise loser was Parliament speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, once thought likely to succeed Mugabe. He lost in the central Kwekwe constituency. Heather Bennett, wife of MDC lawmaker Roy Bennett who was jailed in 2004 following a scuffle in parliament, was allowed to stand on his behalf but also lost. Jonathan Moyo, the former information minister and architect of Zimbabwe’s repressive media laws, was the only independent candidate to win a seat. Mugabe dismissed him after Moyo challenged the appointment of the country’s first woman vice president and potential successor to Mugabe.
Mugabe has long aimed for a two-thirds majority to enable him to amend the constitution without having to seek approval in a referendum – he lost a referendum in 2000. According to analysts, he indents to set up a Senate representing traditional chiefs, retired politicians and other eminent Zimbabweans. But critics claim the 81-year-old president wants thereby to pack the chamber with ‘cronies’ to maintain his influence as he heads toward retirement.
The MDC – which won 57 seats in 2000 parliamentary elections and suffered particularly in rural areas this time – held crisis talks but came up with no clear plan of action. “Today the world has seen the extent to which Mugabe is determined to hold on to power without due regard to the people,” MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a news conference after the party’s executive committee met.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an elections monitoring group, said it estimated that 25% of voters had been turned away from the polls nationwide, with the highest number of Zimbabweans prevented from voting in the Midlands area and Harare. "Of those turned away, a significant number were either not aware of the constituency boundaries or were turned away for failing to produce proper identification," said Reginald Matchaba-Hove of the monitoring group.
African observers have endorsed the disputed parliamentary election, countering critics from outside the continent who are accusing President Robert Mugabe of rigging the vote. The African Union (AU), the 13-member regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) and government delegations from Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi joined South Africa in saying Zimbabwe's poll was free, credible and reflected the will of the people. "We are saying that this election was free," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of the SADC observer mission and South Africa's energy and minerals development minister said. "The process was credible. It reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe," Mlambo-Ngcuka told a news conference.
Mlambo-Ngcuka admitted however, that not all conditions for the poll were fair and that the state media did not give as much access to the opposition as required under regional election guidelines that Zimbabwe pledged to honour. But she said this did not change the fact that on election day voters made their choices freely. She also conceded that thousands of people were turned away from polling stations but blamed that on inadequate voter education. She said the MDC, which has alleged serious ballot fraud in at least 32 constituencies, should seek redress through electoral courts.
Meanwhile, two officials responsible for the conduct of elections in Zaka District near Masvingo have been arrested by police for alledgedly storing ballot boxes at their homes.
Final results showed ZANU-PF with 78 of 120 contested seats against 41 for the MDC, a net loss of 10 for the opposition. One independent, purged former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, was also elected. (The Scotsman/Rts/News24, South Africa; Zimbabwe Standard, Harare)


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