, HARARE, Jul 14 – Zimbabwe security forces voted on Sunday in an early election marred by delays over lack of ballot papers, some two weeks before crucial presidential polls.
Scores of uniformed police officers waited outside polling stations after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) failed to deliver voting material which was still being printed.
“This is the clearest manifestation of lack of readiness on the part of ZEC to conduct a credible poll,” said Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement of Democratic Change (MDC).
“As a party we are concerned that if ZEC cannot manage 209 centres for this special vote, how will they manage over ten thousand polling stations on 31 July 2013?”
According to the country’s electoral body, about 87,000 people, largely from the police service which will be on duty on election day, had applied to vote on Sunday and Monday.
Only 6,092 ballot papers had been distributed by Sunday’s polling, ZEC deputy chairperson Joyce Kazembe told a press conference in the late afternoon.
Kazembe blamed the slow start to voting on printing delays which she said were “even beyond our expectation”.
Ballot papers were still being printed, she said.
An AFP reporter witnessed voting underway at only two of four vote stations visited.
Hundreds of uniformed police officers waited dejectedly at one site as late as 4pm for their names to be called out to cast ballots under the watch of regional monitors.
Some were turned away as their ballot papers had not arrived.
At another polling station in the capital, no ballots were being cast at 1pm (1100 GMT) as there were no vote papers.
The month-end crunch vote will replace the uneasy unity government between rivals President Robert Mugabe, 89, and Tsvangirai, 61, that was forced by chaotic 2008 polls.
Twitter users expressed their concerns that Sunday’s showing was a foretaste of what is to come.
“If today’s #ZEC system failure is anything to go by, on 31 July there’ll be irreparable organ failure,” tweeted one person.
Another user said: “this is just an insight of what July 31 will be like… #ZEC cant handle 87000 voters wat of the 6mil.”
But Kazembe said the ZEC will be ready.