“Where to begin with listing the concerns that surround Saturday’s general elections in Zimbabwe?The widely-documented harassment and physical abuse of opposition supporters and rights activists in the months preceding the polls by government supporters and state forces — and the lingering fear cast by even greater levels of intimidation during previous parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2000, and the presidential poll of 2002?

Or, with complaints that the voters’ roll includes thousands of ghost voters who can be drafted into service for President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), and about a registration process for actual voters that many have described as flawed?

The alleged manipulation of food aid to ensure support for the ruling party, at a time when the United Nations World Food Programme estimates that some four million Zimbabweans are in need of assistance (about a quarter of the population, which is in the region of 13 million)?

Or, with the bias towards Mugabe and ZANU-PF on the part of the state broadcasting services, of critical importance in the absence of independent local radio and television stations — and given restrictions on the independent print media?

The reported shortage of polling stations in urban areas known as opposition strongholds, alongside a redrawing of constituencies in favour of the rural areas said to support ZANU-PF?

Or, with the exclusion of election observers from countries which have criticised the Mugabe government, and of journalists from foreign media organisations who have done the same — even as “repression and surveillance” of local journalists continues, according to a Mar. 21 press release from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders?

Then there is the disenfranchisement of millions of Zimbabweans who have fled the political and economic disarray in their country, and who might vote for the opposition if allowed to cast ballots abroad. Also: Statements by various branches of the country’s security services indicating that they would not tolerate an opposition victory Mar. 29, allegations that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is not impartial — and a presidential ruling that allows police into polling stations.”

By Ephraim Nsingo and Tonderai Kwidini

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41773

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Zimbabwe

http://hrw.org/reports/2006/zimbabwe1106/

http://hrw.org/englishwr2k7/docs/2007/01/11/zimbab14720.htm

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