Zimbabwe’s allowing the diaspora vote, pure PR says analyst

CAPE TOWN — No ironies in the very minister who announced the military take-over in Zimbabwe this week announcing incipient measures to allow the diaspora to vote in their elections later this year. Sibusiso Moyo, Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs minister, says they’re working on being able to allow the more than a quarter of the country’s citizens who live outside their borders to vote in upcoming general and president elections. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change will benefit hugely as most of the Zimbabweans who left are aligned to it – making the ruling Patriotic Party appear truly democratic. Yet Zimbabwe’s own seasoned analysts say it’s an empty PR gesture, given that the country’s electoral commission has neither technical resources nor the capacity. Which seems to be more consistent and make sense of the apparent schizophrenia being suffered by the military rulers – and far less ironic. Stranger things have happened in politics though… – Chris Bateman

By Vonnie Quinn, Mark Barton and Desmond Kumbuka

(Bloomberg) – Sibusiso Moyo, Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs minister, said the country is working on the logistics of allowing citizens who live outside the country to vote in general and presidential elections scheduled for this year.

The “constitution allows them to vote,” the former general said in an interview on Monday with Bloomberg Television in New York.

The refusal of the Zimbabwean government under the leadership of former President Robert Mugabe to allow members of the diaspora to vote has been the cause of disputes with the opposition over the last two decades as the country’s economic collapse led a quarter of its population to emigrate. Elections were marred by violence and irregularities.

While Zimbabwe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front has strong support in rural areas, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change is popular in cities and with citizens who have left the country for economic reasons. The economy has halved in size since 2000.

”It’s likely an electoral public relations designed to quieten increasingly vocal debate surrounding the Diaspora vote, but it’s practically impossible at the moment as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission hasn’t the technical resources or capacity,” said Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute. “They’re struggling to manage their resources within the country right now and there’s simply no way they can handle the diaspora vote.”

Moyo also said members of Mugabe’s cabinet who fled the country when the military took control temporarily in November are welcome to return but must account for any crimes. The minister was the military official who announced the takeover in a televised address.

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