HARARE – Zimbabwe’s long-serving President Robert Mugabe unveiled a new biometric voter registration programme Thursday ahead of next year’s elections, drawing criticism from opponents who claim the system could be manipulated.
Registration will open nationwide on Monday and continue until January 15 for the polls in which 93-year-old Mugabe will seek to extend his 37-year-long stranglehold on power.
But opposition parties have warned that registration authorities are not ready for the process, creating a risk of errors on the voter roll that could leave the ballot open to rigging.
The main opposition MDC party has gone to the Harare High Court to argue that that the electoral commission has not procured enough equipment to register voters and that the registration process itself lacks transparency.
“The prescription of a date to close new voter registration creates a risk of disenfranchising voters,” the MDC argued in court documents seen by AFP.
“There is no need to jump the gun and order a chaotic, premature commencement of the registration process.
“It is evident that, by and large, there are no kits to commence registration.”
The party’s submission also raised fears about the control, location and impartiality of electronic voting systems that will be used in the election.
Kenya faced chaotic scenes after the main opposition party alleged that election commission servers had been hacked during last month’s presidential vote.
The Supreme Court subsequently annulled the result and ordered a re-run.
“We will use all constitutional, political and legal pressure to make sure we have (an election) that is free and fair next year,” MDC spokesman Obert Gutu told AFP.
Zimbabwe’s 2013 election result was disputed by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who accused Mugabe of manipulating the vote in his favour.
In 2008, he beat Mugabe in the first round of voting but failed to win an outright majority, leading to a run-off. He later pulled out of the second ballot as violence against his supporters raged.
Past elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by violence, intimidation and charges of electoral fraud.