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By Lebo Nkatazo

THE body running Zimbabwe’s elections moved to allay fears of vote rigging on Tuesday, by inviting presidential candidates or their chief election agents to attend the collation of election data from across the country.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) also urged Zimbabweans – still awaiting full results after voting in general elections on Saturday – to remain patient.

“We want to urge voters to remain patient as we go through this meticulous process,” the ZEC said amid growing domestic and international pressure to release the results of the weekend poll which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims it has won.

The ZEC said in order to preserve the credibility of the presidential election ballot, candidates or their election managers were free to attend the collation of data from around the country – a clear indication that the presidential election outcome could still be days away from being announced.

President Robert Mugabe, seeking a sixth term, is pitted against his main rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and his former finance minister Simba Makoni, who defected from Zanu PF.

The United States, Britain, Canada and five other European countries urged the ZEC to speedily announce the poll results amid claims by the MDC that Zanu PF was planning to rig the outcome.

The National Association of Non Government Associations (NANGO) said the ZEC’s delays in announcing the results undermined the credibility of the polls.

“NANGO still awaits ZEC to honour its commitment to address civil society concerns regarding the number of ballot papers printed, the number of ballot boxes, the number of voter registration cards and the number of postal voters,” NANGO said in a statement.

“This lack of information combined with the delay in the announcement of the election results fosters civil society’s uncertainty and undermines the credibility of the election results. NANGO thus calls upon ZEC to ensure to resolve the delays in the proclamation of election results.”

Zimbabwe held four joint elections for senate, parliament, local government and president for the first time, a fact the ZEC has seized on to shield itself from public criticism over delays in announcing results.
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