Catholic justice and peace body condemns Zimbabwe election commission

By agency reporter
May 9, 2008

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) can no longer be relied upon as a "neutral and nonpartisan electoral umpire", according to the Justice and Peace Commission of the Zimbabwean Catholic Bishops' Conference - reports FIDES.

In a statement issued on Sunday 4 May 2008, the commission condemned the climate of violence in the country and says: "All fair minded Zimbabweans have lost faith and confidence in ZEC, which can no longer be trusted to superintend a runoff."

On 2 May, the ZEC finally published the results of the presidential elections held on 29 March, now over a month later.

The opposition's candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai received 47.9% of the consensus, versus incumbent Robert Mugabe's 43.2%. Mugabe had been the head of the country for 28 years.

According to electoral guidelines, an absolute majority (50% plus 1, of the votes) is needed in order to win the first round. If none of the candidates receive the absolute majority vote, a second round of voting must be held. Tsvangirai affirms that, based on independent calculations, he had already won elections, however the opposition appears to accept the second round.

The date of the second voting has not yet been determined and should take place within 21 days, according to the law. The day after the second round of voting was announced, the party of President Mugabe (ZANU-PF) announced that it would file a complaint against the assigning of 52 seats of Parliament to the opposition. The Movement for Democratic Chande (MDC), Tsvangirai's party, also contested the 60 seats of the party in power.

As the country prepares for the vote, violence and intimidation on the part of the military and militias, has increased. The teachers' union in Zimbabwe has announced they were the main targets of the violence that followed the elections.

According to union representatives, last week 133 teachers suffered assaults and 496 were interrogated on "electoral matters." Over 1,700 teachers have had to leave the country due to threats.

Facing this situation, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops of Zimbabwe have asked for intervention from the United Nations and the African Union to supervise a planned presidential runoff.

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