AU gives Zim election a cautionary thumbs up

Nigeria's former president and the head of the African Union (AU) election observer team in Zimbabwe, Olesugun Obasanjo, on Friday gave the greenlight to Wednesday's election, an announcement that is further likely to place the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on the back foot.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai dismissed the election as a "huge farce". With Obasanjo's preliminary verdict that the election despite its shortcomings, was free and fair, the MDC is increasingly becoming isolated in its attempt to have the poll outcome reversed.

Early indications of results released by the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) on Thursday and Friday indicated that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF was set for a victory against the MDC. 

Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu-PF spokesperson said: "It's the prediction that the president might likely get 70% to 75%.We think there is a sense of victory for us."

As early results trickled in on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma challenged Tsvangirai to produce evidence that the Wednesday poll had been manipulated. Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC)  appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis and his assessment and that of the SADC are seen as crucial benchmarks for judging the Zimbabwe poll.

"There were challenges to the poll, but it is not something we would regard as bad such that it would affect the outcome of the poll," Obasanjo told reporters at a press briefing in Harare on Friday.

The AU noted the unavailability of the voters roll to political parties and funding as key challenges to the process, which is being managed by the ZEC.

"The electoral commission could have helped to ease anxieties by making the voters roll available to all political parties concerned", said Obasanjo.

The AU in its preliminary report also criticised the electoral commission for printing 8.7-million ballot papers in an election that the registrar general's office said had only 6.4-million voters.

The 35% excess in ballot papers, the AU said, was "significantly higher than the international best practice of 5%".

"We urge to the ZEC to be accountable in the remainder of the ballot papers", it said.

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Ray Ndlovu
Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.

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