OPPOSITION Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has hired a prominent Danish electoral expert to bolster his legal team challenging President Rob
ert Mugabe’s disputed re-election last year. Tsvangirai enlisted the services of Professor Jorgen Elklit, a renowned elections expert and political scientist, to reinforce his legal heads of argument in the court petition which opens in the High Court on November 3.
Elklit, a professor of politics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, has vast experience in electoral issues. He has dealt with electoral matters in South Africa, Tanzania, Lesotho, 15 Asian countries – in particular China and Nepal – and across Europe, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Latvia.
In 1993 he served on a panel appointed by South Africa’s Goldstone Commission to probe acts of violence and intimidation in the country’s first multi-racial elections in 1994.
He also worked as one of five international members on the Independent Electoral Commission in 1994. Last year President Thabo Mbeki appointed him to the Electoral Task Team established by cabinet to evaluate the need to reform the country’s electoral system.
Elklit has written a detailed document assessing the conduct of Zimbabwe’s controversial presidential poll in March last year.
The document, drafted on October 2, is part of Tsvangirai’s legal heads of argument prepared by his team of lawyers that include veteran South African lawyer, Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett, and local Advocates Adrian de Bourbon and Happius Zhou. The lawyers filed the heads of argument with the High Court on October 13.
Elklit concludes that Mugabe’s re-election was clearly not free and fair. He cites blatant manipulation of electoral laws, biased administration of the polls, political violence and intimidation among a range of irregularities.
“The various irregularities and mistakes and the non-compliance with fundamentals of the Electoral Act undoubtedly had serious material consequences, which most certainly affected the result of the election,” he said.