Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Zimbabwe: hasn't anyone got a calculator?

I don’t think I’ve ever been so gripped by the outcome of an election as by the drip-drip release of results from Zimbabwe. And if Robert Mugabe is finally defeated – and, more importantly, that defeat is accepted by Zanu-PF, the police and armed forces – I’ll be celebrating along with my Zimbabwean friends who’ve had to wait for such a moment for far too long.

But I’ve lost faith over the past 72 hours or so in the ability of either the Zimbabwean opposition or the western media to provide me with an accurate account of what has actually been happening in this election.

On Monday, Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change was claiming a 60-30 per cent victory in the presidential election for its candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. The Guardian website headline proclaimed an electoral ‘massacre’ for Mugabe. The percentages have changed over the past couple of days until the outcome has turned into a cliffhanger. But even now, as I write, the Guardian is still reporting, as it has been all day, the MDC’s claims that Tsvangirai has won by 50.3 per cent to Mugabe’s 43.8 per cent, with 7 per cent for Simba Makoni.

‘Those figures would mean Tsvangirai had taken enough votes in the first round to win the presidency,’ reports the Guardian.

Indeed they would. But you don’t need to be one of Mugabe’s ballot-riggers to spot that those figures add up to a little over 101 per cent. And if you check the MDC’s own figures on which these percentages are based (1,169,860 for Tsvangirai; 1,043,451 for Mugabe; and 169,636 for Makoni), you come up with 49.09 per cent for Tsvangirai, not the claimed 50.3 per cent – which makes the difference between an outright first-round victory and the need for a second run-off ballot.

The BBC, among many others worldwide, has also been using these same, self-evidently inaccurate figures all day. Hasn’t anyone got a calculator?

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