ZIMBABWE’S main opposition party alleged on Friday that police officers had not been allowed to vote secretly when completing early postal ballots for the country’s upcoming election, as tensions grow over the risk of fraud.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said police had been monitored by their superiors as they filled out voting papers at a police camp outside the city of Bulawayo and elsewhere.
“Voters have a constitutional right to a secret ballot but our investigations showed that police officers were voting with their employers watching them,” MDC spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda told AFP.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) head Priscilla Chigumba said it had processed 7 600 applications for postal votes from police and defence personnel who will be on duty on election day and diplomats working abroad.
“Postal voters are free to vote secretly for any candidate of their choice,” she said at a press conference on Friday.
Erasmus Makodza, the senior police officer overseeing the election, said that “the voting process went on very smoothly”.
“No members or officers were coerced to vote in front of any officer,” he said.
EU election monitors were at the police camp, a mission spokesperson said, adding that their assessment of the voting was continuing.
Zimbabwe votes on July 30 in its first election since the ousting of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe following a brief military takeover in November, faces MDC leader Nelson Chamisa in the presidential race.
Previous elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by violence and voter fraud. Mnangagwa has vowed to hold a free and fair vote.