Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday gave a kick-off to electoral registration for the general elections scheduled for 2018, a process immediately denounced as dubious and ill-prepared by the opposition.
“I declare officially open the biometric registration of voters,” Mugabe said from his residence in the capital Harare.
The presidential and legislative elections are due to take place next year.
Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country with an iron hand since his independence in 1980, has already been invested by his party, the Zanu-PF, as a candidate for the presidential election. He will be 94 years old.
In 2013, former Prime Minister and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai denounced the election results and accused the head of state of massive fraud.
Human Rights Watch reported that voters who were deceased, minor or even fictitious were voting.
On Thursday, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chair Rita Makarau said all voters who wish to participate in the 2018 elections must re-register by 15 January.
Biometric registration – a first in Zimbabwe – will be done “through fingerprint registration and facial recognition technology,” Makarau said.
The operations were symbolically launched with the inscription of Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace and several ministers.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), denounced before the courts the lack of transparency in the proceedings.
“The introduction of a deadline for registration poses the risk of depriving voters of their right … There is no point in launching a chaotic and premature registration process, pleaded the party in his complaint.
The MDC also voiced its “concerns” about the security of computer servers responsible for identifying voters.
In an interview last May with the AFP, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai said that “the Zanu-PF has not won an election recently, it rigged them.”
A spokesman for the MDC, Obert Gutu, told AFP on Thursday that his party would use “all constitutional, political and legal means to ensure that next year’s elections will be free and fair.”