Zimbabwe Opposition Calls for Protest on Electoral Reforms

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s main opposition parties called for protests next week to demand a series of electoral reforms before the southern African nation votes on July 30 in the first ballot since Robert Mugabe stepped down as president.

An alliance of opposition parties led by the Movement for Democratic Change wants access to the voters’ roll, an explanation for an increase in polling stations, and equal access to the media, spokesman Tendai Biti told journalists Friday. MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said his party would “shut down’’ the capital, Harare, unless the reforms are implemented, the NewsDay newspaper reported.

“If these issues are not addressed, the prospects of a truly fair, free and credible election in Zimbabwe will be a mirage,” Biti said. The alliance announced plans to hold a march on June 5 to the office of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, he said.

The election comes after Mugabe, who ruled the southern African nation for almost four decades, was forced to step down as president in November. European Union monitors will observe the vote for the first time since 2002.

Presidential Candidate

Mnangagwa, 75, who came to power with assistance from the army after Mugabe’s resignation, will stand as the presidential candidate of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. His main opponent will be the 40-year-old Chamisa, who took over the MDC leadership following the death of former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February.

The country’s economy has halved in size since 2000 and faces a cash crisis that limits withdrawals from banks and the government’s ability to pay state workers on time.

Reacting to the alliance’s announcement, Information Minister Simon Kaya Moyo said, “it’s up to them to protest.”

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled against allowing Zimbabweans living abroad to have the right to vote for the first time, as opposition leaders had demanded.

“We are not going to boycott these elections, but there will not be an election which does not meet basic rudimentary requirements,” Biti said. “And surely it’s a basic rudimentary requirement that there is transparency around the voters’ roll. We are not asking for planet Venus.” – Bmoomberg

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