•A version of this post first appeared on the blog Freedom at Issue. The views expressed are the author's own.
Zimbabweans go to the polls next week for the first time since 2008. As the country prepares for the election, here are some numbers to keep in mind:
July 31, that is. The day of Zimbabwe’s general elections. On June 15, President Robert Mugabe unilaterally set July 31 as the date for the general elections, a move which directly violated the new constitution and a requirement in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) – a power-sharing deal signed after the electoral violence of 2008 – that the president consult with the prime minister in setting the election date. Despite appeals by both Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change–Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Mr. Mugabe’s own ZANU PF party, the Constitutional Court held that the elections would take place as planned on July 31. These will be the first elections since 2008 and arguably the most important balloting in Zimbabwe’s history. The condensed timeline presents major challenges for a country recovering from decades of political intimidation and electoral manipulation.
The estimated number of people killed in Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections. During the run-up to the second round of voting in 2008, an estimated 200 to 300 people were killed and thousands were beaten and tortured by Mugabe supporters and security forces, prompting Mr. Tsvangirai to withdraw from the presidential runoff despite having taken the lead in the first round. As a result of this botched electoral process and a deepening economic crisis, the opposing parties eventually signed the GPA and formed the Government of National Unity (GNU), leaving Mugabe in the presidency and creating the post of prime minister for Tsvangirai.
The number of registered voters in Zimbabwe, out of a population of 13 million. Among undemocratic rulers, intimidation and manipulation are seen as foolproof ways to prevent a healthy political process and thwart a mobilized citizenry. In Zimbabwe, a deeply flawed and politicized voter registration process could mean that the upcoming elections were over before they even began. There are approximately 2 million Zimbabweans under the age of 30 who are not currently registered to vote, and there are significant discrepancies between urban and rural registration. According to Finance Minister and MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti, only 27,000 new voters were registered in Harare – where the MDC is favored – while 117,000 were registered in the ZANU-PF strongholds of Mashonaland West and East. In fact, the number of voters on the rolls in some Harare constituencies actually decreased compared with 2008. (Zimbabweans can check their registration status and report any inaccuracies at http://www.myzimvote.com/).
The estimated number of deceased or absent voters on the rolls. A preliminary audit of the voter registry by an independent organization, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), found over a million names of people who were deceased or no longer living in Zimbabwe. In addition, 63 constituencies had more registered voters than they have inhabitants, based on the 2012 national census. On July 17, the High Court of Zimbabwe issued an order barring the RAU from presenting the complete findings of its audit at an event in Harare.
The approximate funding shortfall for next week’s elections, according to Finance Minister Tendai Biti. The total funding needed for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to administer the elections is $132 million. While the Ministry of Finance has released $40 million, Mr. Biti claims, “We are far away from reaching the target. We do not have the money. We can’t increase taxes.” Funding from international donors has been hard to come by due to the disregard Zimbabwe has continually shown for international electoral standards. In March, the United Nations said it was ready and willing to fund the elections in Zimbabwe, but Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa of ZANU PF barred a UN pre-election assessment team from entering the country.
The estimated revenue from the Marange diamond fields since 2008 that remains unaccounted for. The watchdog group Partnership Africa Canada reported that the $2 billion, siphoned off by the political elite and members of the military, is a conservative estimate. Besides demonstrating Zimbabwe’s rampant corruption, lack of transparency, and poor governance, the illegal diamond trade also represents hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue – money that could have been used to organize free and fair elections, among other things. In 2011, Biti claimed that the Treasury would receive $600 million in revenue from diamond sales during 2012. Only $41.6 million ever materialized.
The estimated number of breaches of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) since it was signed in 2008. The civic group Sokwanele, through its Zimbabwe Inclusive Government Watch, has undertaken extensive media monitoring in order to document all violations of the GPA. According to its findings, ZANU PF has breached the GPA on 20,847 occasions since 2008, while the MDC-T has been responsible for 1,009 violations. There has been very little progress on consolidating democratic reforms, largely due to a lack of political will on the part of the Mugabe regime. While a new constitution was adopted in March with nearly 95 percent voter approval, nearly all other key provisions of the GPA – such as the professionalization of the security sector, prevention of future political violence, and protection of independent political activity – have been neglected, severely threatening the credibility of the July 31 elections.
The (far from exhaustive) number of incidents of persecution against civil society in the last year, as documented by the RFK Center for Human Rights. Although the GPA called for the protection of independent political activity, civil society organizations, especially those doing election-related work, have repeatedly come under attack by security forces in an effort to intimidate them into silence. These incidents include the arrest, detention, and abuse of activists, as well as raids on organizations’ offices. A number of high-profile cases, such as the disappearance of human rights activist Paul Chizuze and the arrest of human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, highlight the dire weakness of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and the lengths some elites will go to in order to keep their hold on power.
The number of police officers approved to vote in a July 13 special election. The special balloting, intended to accommodate security and other personnel who would be deployed and unable to vote on July 31, had 69,322 approved police voters. There are only 44,133 police officers on Zimbabwe’s official payroll. In response to this discrepancy, the MDC-T filed a case with the Constitutional Court, which was thrown out on July 19. Compounding the controversy around the special election was the fact that it was a logistical disaster: Only about 29,000 of those approved to vote were actually able to do so, despite an illegal one-day extension of voting to address a ballot shortage. Furthermore, voters who were unable to cast their ballots will be allowed to vote on July 31, raising legitimate concerns that there will be widespread double voting. With election day fast approaching and logistical problems abounding, election observers are badly needed to ensure a credible process.
The number of election observers from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) who will be present in Zimbabwe for the July 31 elections. SADC’s 442 observers and the AU’s 69 will monitor the polls in all 10 provinces of a country of 13 million people that is slightly larger than the US state of Montana. No countries or regional organizations that have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, including the United States and the European Union, were invited to send monitors. However, an invitation to send five observers each was extended to countries such as Sudan, China, Iran, Cuba, Russia, and Belarus, all of which are ranked "not free" in Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom in the World report.
The number of chief executives in Zimbabwe in the last 33 years. President Mugabe, who led the liberation movement in Zimbabwe, has been in power since 1980, serving first as prime minister until the switch to a presidential system in 1987. If he wins the July 31 elections, he will be 94 years old when he next faces voters. He ranks third in sub-Saharan Africa for longest executive tenure, behind Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos (in power for 34 years this September) and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (in power for 34 years this August). Zimbabwe has never experienced a democratic transfer of power, and Mugabe’s 33 years in office have been marked by violations of basic freedoms, undemocratic governance, and economic crisis.
Keep a close eye on Zimbabwe next week to see whether this reign will continue for another five years.