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Zimbabwe - 2000 Elections

Parliamentary elections held in June 2000 were marred by localized violence, and claims of electoral irregularities and government intimidation of opposition supporters. Nonetheless, the MDC succeeded in capturing 57 of 120 seats in the National Assembly.

General parliamentary elections were held in June 2000 amid widespread voter intimidation and violence by the Government and ZANU-PF supporters and reports of vote-rigging and other irregularities. Although the election days generally were peaceful, the process leading up to it was neither free nor fair. The MDC captured 57 out of the 120 popularly elected seats. Thirty additional seats are reserved for presidential and tribal chief appointees, who are ZANU-PF supporters, which gave ZANU-PF a total of 92 seats; this total increased to 93 during the year.

In the period before the 2000 parliamentary elections, the Government, backed by security forces, implemented a systematic campaign of intimidation and physical violence against opposition supporters. The Government invoked the LOMA to bar the transportation of political supporters across constituencies, and police also used the LOMA to restrict public gatherings. In many districts, the campaign reportedly backfired, resulting in additional votes for the opposition, but in others voters stayed away from the polls due to fear of retribution. For example, there were reports that farm workers of non-Zimbabwean heritage were threatened with deportation if they voted against the ruling party.

In 2000 the Supreme Court nullified on procedural grounds approximately 6,000 absentee ballots sent by troops stationed in the DRC. The ruling followed widespread reports that the ballots had been distributed by ZANU-PF to districts where it faced narrow defeat by MDC candidates.

In 2000 the MDC filed petitions with the High Court challenging the electoral results in 36 parliamentary constituencies, stating that there was sufficient evidence of intimidation, vote-rigging, and other irregularities to warrant overturning the results of those constituencies. The ZANU-Ndonga opposition party initiated a case challenging the results in one constituency.

In 2000 President Mugabe amended the Electoral Act to prohibit the nullification of the election of any M.P. On January 31, the Supreme Court declared the President's decree unconstitutional, which allowed the High Court to hear parliamentary election challenges. During the year, the High Court nullified the results in four constituencies, but upheld the results in four others. All eight cases were appealed to the Supreme Court by the respective parties; the cases still were under review at year's end. During the year, the MDC dropped 6 of its original 36 challenges. Witnesses who testified in the cases were threatened or beaten. Police also frequently harassed individual MDC members after the 2000 elections.

In April 2000, Vice-President Msika announced that civil servants would not be permitted to act as election monitors in the parliamentary elections because they sympathized with the opposition. Civil servants have been the Government's traditional source for domestic election monitors. The MDC accused the Government of replacing the civil servants with its own supporters. In 2000 the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) challenged in the High Court sections of the amended Electoral Act that reduces ESC authority to accredit international electoral monitors; the High Court took no action on the case by year's end. International election observers repeatedly were denied accreditation by the Government, and most were not accredited until the last few days before the 2000 election as a result of frequent changes in the accreditation rules by the Government. The Government continued to erect obstacles to international observers during the year 2000.

The Government's very poor human rights record continued to worsen during 2000, and it committed numerous, serious abuses. Security forces committed extrajudicial killings. A government-sanctioned, systematic campaign of violence targeting supporters and potential supporters of the opposition began in the run-up to parliamentary elections in 2000 and continued to intensify during the year. Ruling party supporters and war veterans, with material support from the Government, expanded their occupation of commercial farms, and in some cases killed, abducted, tortured, beat, abused, raped, and threatened farm owners, their workers, opposition party members, and other persons believed to be sympathetic to the opposition. There were reports of politically motivated disappearances. Security forces tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused persons.

The legislature, which traditionally has been subordinate to the executive branch, has a viable opposition that called on the Government to be accountable and transparent. Parliamentary question time is used to force debate and disclosure. In October 2000, the MDC brought a motion to Parliament to impeach President Mugabe for violating the Constitution and for gross misconduct. In November 2000, the Speaker of Parliament appointed a special committee composed of eight ZANU-PF members and four MDC members to consider the charges outlined in the motion. Legal rights activists accused the Speaker of preventing the committee from meeting or holding hearings.





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