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Priscilla Chigumba endorses Russia presidential election



THE head of Zimbabwe’s electoral observer mission to the 2024 Russian presidential election Priscilla Chigumba — currently chairperson of the discredited Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) — says the controversial Russo poll was held in “a peaceful and conducive environment” as well as run in an “efficient professional manner”.

This is contrary to some reports that the elections were held in an authoritarian and repressive environment.

Chigumba, who has presided over stolen elections in Zimbabwe, including last year’s brazenly rigged polls, endorsed the Russian process without any reservations.

She studiously ignored grave concerns raised by some election missions, particularly repressive tactics against opposition candidates.

Opposition candidates were either jailed, or fled into exile, or lost their lives in the process.

Zec is notorious for rigging elections and has done huge damage to democracy at home. Russian strongman Vladimir Putin cruised to a landslide victory with 87% of the vote in weekend elections celebrated by him and his allies, while widely condemned elsewhere.

Even by low Russian standards, Zimbabwe is a dramatic case study when it comes to rigging elections. A Russian opposition leader once described Zimbabwean elections as a scandal, saying some Russo elections were worse than those conducted by Harare.

The win landed Putin into a fifth term as president after seeing off three other candidates all rubber-stamped by the Kremlin.

There was no serious and credible opposition to Putin. The Kremlin had eliminated competition well ahead of the polls.

Some of Putin’s opponents were eliminated through jail, exile or death. Aleksei Navalny, a prominent Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption activist, for instance, died in detention in February.

 Navalny died in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19- year sentence. His supporters staged symbolic protests across Russia during the weekend.

Their “Noon against Putin” initiative meant that long queues of voters turned out in Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg as well as embassies abroad, but did not have an impact of the polls.

Putin said his victory showed people still have overwhelming confidence in him and want his rule to continue.

He said Russia’s democracy was more transparent than many in the West. However, Putin’s critics at home, in the region and in the West slammed the elections as a charade. Next door, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said “the Russian dictator is simulating another election”.

 Russia and Ukraine are locked in a deadly war since 2022, although the war started in 2014. The United States said Russian elections were “obviously not free nor fair” as Putin had imprisoned his opponents and prevented others from running against him.

 Germany called it a “pseudo-election” under an authoritarian ruler reliant on censorship, repression and violence. UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron condemned “the illegal holding of elections on Ukrainian territory”.

Nikolai Petrov from the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank in London said the result made Russia a “totally consolidated autocracy.” — STAFF WRITER

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