Voting in Zimbabwe General Election Delayed by Lack of Ballot Papers

Zimbabwe’s general election has been marred by delays due to a lack of ballot papers, further exacerbating the economic crises that have dominated the country’s campaign. Voting at most urban polling stations in Harare and Bulawayo began four hours late as polling officers failed to distribute papers for the council elections. Even after seven hours since polls opened, some polling stations had still not received the necessary election materials.

The delays have frustrated voters who have criticized the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for its failure in managing the election process. Cynthia Muvirimirwa, a 34-year-old schoolteacher, expressed her disappointment saying, “I came here at 5am knowing that the queues will be long but four hours later I am still to vote. ZEC must do better.” The delays have hit elderly citizens particularly hard, with some having to return home from polling stations due to the extensive waiting times.

The commission acknowledges the printing delays and has called for calm among voters. In a statement, the ZEC urged voters at affected polling stations to remain patient. To address the situation, voting hours have been extended from 7pm to 9pm in some areas. However, political observers have criticized the voting process, describing it as chaotic.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who aims to break the ruling Zanu-PF’s long-standing grip on power, asserted that the delays were intended to frustrate his supporters but remained confident of victory. Speaking to journalists in Harare, Chamisa stated that the delays had created a constitutional and electoral crisis. He accused Zanu-PF of targeting urban areas to destabilize his support base.

In contrast, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, seeking a second term, cast his ballot in Kwekwe without delay. He expressed confidence in winning the election and addressed journalists saying, “I will win this election. If I was not confident, I would not be running.” Mnangagwa narrowly defeated Chamisa in the previous election following the coup that removed Robert Mugabe from power. However, the country’s economic crisis, including high unemployment rates, inflation, and a devalued currency, persists.

Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections since gaining independence from the UK in 1980. Human rights groups have highlighted familiar issues that plagued previous elections, such as irregularities in the voter roll, biased public media, and the use of law enforcement and the courts to hinder opposition campaigns.

With dusk approaching, concerns arise that some voters may not have the opportunity to cast their ballots, and certain polling stations may struggle to facilitate nighttime voting. To secure the presidency, a candidate must obtain over 50% of the vote and two-thirds of the parliamentary seats for a majority.