Friday, July 23, 2021

Zimbabwe opposition plans election reform protests

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Zimbabwe’s main opposition said it plans street protests in the capital Harare on Tuesday to demand electoral reforms to ensure upcoming polls are free and fair.

Voters cast ballots on July 30 to choose a president, lawmakers and municipal councillors, in the country’s first elections since long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was ousted last year.

“We will be flooding the streets,” said Tendai Biti, spokesman of the main opposition alliance the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“We want free, fair, credible elections,” he said Friday.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who is vying to retain his post after he took over from Mugabe with the help of the military last November, has promised free, fair and credible elections.

But the opposition accuses the poll organiser, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), of failing to address key demands for a free and fair vote.

The opposition also wants military officials working at the electoral commission to be removed and for soldiers to stay away from election campaign meetings.

“Every rally we are having in the rural areas, people are complaining about the presence of military soldiers that are dressed in civilian clothing that have been deployed to interfere with the electoral processes,” Biti told reporters.

READ ALSO: No sign of Mugabe at Zimbabwe parliament hearing

The opposition has also demanded an external audit of the voter register and equal coverage on state media.

“It is our considered view that 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 government has invited foreign observers, including the European Union, who were barred from monitoring polls in the country for the past 16 years.

Mnangagwa will face Nelson Chamisa, 40, of the MDC in the presidential race.

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