Monday, August 05, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) AU says free and fair polls possible
20/07/2013 00:00:00
by AFP

FREE and fair elections, due at the end of July, are possible, despite a chaotic early vote and concerns from regional powerhouse South Africa, the African Union (AU) said on Friday.

The AU has broken ranks with the Southern African Development Community’s (Sadc’s) hardline stance against President Robert Mugabe’s push for national elections to be held on July 31.

The vote would be the first since elections in 2008, which led to the formation of a coalition government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai but was marred by deadly violence.

Mugabe’s call for early polls is widely seen as an attempt to prolong his 33 years in power, despite demands for reform by his arch-rival Tsvangirai.

The Constitutional Court ordered Mugabe two weeks ago to hold the poll by the end of July, but Tsvangirai has rejected his rival’s declaration, saying the political landscape and environment are not yet conducive and that Mugabe was out to create a political crisis.

AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told journalists in Geneva, Switzerland, that it was up to the Zimbabweans to resolve a row over Mugabe’s decision to call an election at the end of July.

Commenting on the AU’s statement on Friday, AU commissioner for political affairs on Zimbabwe Aisha Abdullahi said: "According to our observers on the ground we believe that it is possible to have free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. But we cannot guarantee that it will be the most perfect or optimum of situations.
"The environment in Zimbabwe so far reassures us that the conditions are good for the election to be held on July 31.

"The Peace and Security Council has noted the levels of preparation for the election and confirmed that the funding gap has been filled," she said, referring to the panel in charge of enforcing union decisions.
The AU announcement comes after South Africa warned there were challenges in the run-up to the vote.

A scheduled early vote by the country’s security forces had turned chaotic as thousands of police and soldiers slated to be on duty on election day were unable to vote by the time the two days of polling closed on Monday evening.

Election officials blamed the disruption on problems associated with the printing of ballot papers, although the stations had opened late and many lacked indelible ink, stamps, voter rolls and ballot papers and boxes.

Sadc leaders will meet in South Africa on Saturday to discuss the upcoming elections.

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