AU: Zim elections provisionally free and fair

Observers have however so far given Wednesday's elections a thumbs up. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) undertook to release the results within five days.

Head of the African Union observer mission, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, told the media on Wednesday night that he considered the elections provisionally “free and fair".

"From what I saw and the reports that I’ve received so far from our observers who went out in the field, the conduct of the elections everywhere they went to was peaceful, orderly and free and fair," Obasanjo said.

“My hope is that this is what we’ll get from all polling stations from across the country."

Obasanjo was soon echoed by the ZEC, which also said all went well.

ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told journalists that all provinces reported that “polling was peaceful and orderly across the board".

SADC’s executive secretary Tomas Salomao said he was "impressed" by Zimbabwe’s elections.

Turned away
Several voters were turned away from polling stations in different parts of the country, raising unhappiness within opposition parties.

Some voters were turned away because they didn’t appear on the voters’ roll, despite producing registration slips as evidence that they had registered.

Obasanjo said people were turned away because they were either at a wrong polling station or didn’t have their identity documents or registration certificates.

“Where people were permanently sent back it was because they were registered after July 9. The date on which they registered was not the date that allows them to vote," Obasanjo said.

He however said Zimbabwe’s authorities did their best to resolve cases that were reported to them. "I saw several cases where the response from branch headquarters [for complaints] came back positive." 

Zimbabweans voted for a new president, who’s likely to be Zanu-PF president Robert Mugabe or Tsvangirai. 

While Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since the country’s independence in 1980, it’s the third time that Tsvangirai is trying to be elected to the presidential seat. 

Police warn against unofficial results
Meanwhile, police in Zimbabwe warned they would arrest persons or groups that release unofficial results of the country's fiercely fought elections.

Traditionally independent local vote-monitoring groups collate parallel tallies as results trickle in from polling stations after counting.

But this year, police warned "all people who may wish to announce the results of elections before ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) does so, that they risk being arrested," police spokesperson Charity Charamba told reporters.

The warning also applies to online publication, she added.

"It does include websites because it still has the same effect.

"The fact that it is on the website still [means] a crime has been committed and if those people are within this country then they will be arrested," she said.

Several online platforms are set to break unofficial results as they come in.

The threat did not seem to deter various organisations and people to post provisional tallies on microblogging site Twitter.

Britain's The Guardian and the Mail & Guardian, whose publisher is a Zimbabwean national, have set up online voting trends maps for the presidential polls.

You can view the M&G's voting trends map here.

Zimbabwe-based pro-democracy group Sokwanele has created an interactive election results map, while the ZimDecides website catalogued problem incidents around the polls.

The police warning followed President Robert Mugabe's threat on Sunday to arrest his foe Morgan Tsvangirai if he attempts to declare early victory.

Tsvangirai earlier told supporters he would announce a tally based on his party's parallel collation if there were delays in the official results. – Additional reporting by AFP

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Mmanaledi Mataboge
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