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Rhodesia counts heavy vote as charges of cheating fly

It's all over the shouting in Rhodesia. And shouting there probably will be, when results of this nation's first internationally recognized majority-rule elections are announced (schedule for March 4).

Fully 93.6 percent of the estimated eligible voters -- some 2,699,450 persons -- went to the polls during three days of voting last week. Their ballots now are being counted, even as controversy over the legitimacy of the elections is heard.

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Two of the major parties -- Bishop Abel Muzorewa's United African National Congress (UANC) and Joshua Nkomo's PAtriotic Front (PF) -- have threatened not to accept the results of the election due to allegations of widespread intimidation and multiple voting.

There is little agreement here on which party has been guilty of the most voter intimidation. Some blame guerrillas loyal to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) for defying a cease-fire during the election period and threatening voters with reprisals should Mr. Mugabe lose.

Others charge that "auxiliary soldiers" loyal to Bishop Muzorewa's UANC have done the same.

Whether such intimidation is to be considered self-cancelling because all parties have been guilty of it, or whether it was ignored by voters convinced of the secrecy of the balloting, is a matter of intense debate here as the election results are being tallied.

A team of observers drawn from 11 Commonwealth countries has come out with perhaps the most generous view of the elections so far. the team stated that they "can be considered free and fair to the extent that [the elections] provided and adequate and acceptable means of determining the wishes of the people in a democratic manner."

The observer group said this view was buttressed by "the huge turnout and the orderly and manifestly relaxed manner in which such a large percentage of voters went to the polls."

A 10-member group of British parliamentarians also here to observe the elections found that " the situation has not made it impossible for the election to reflect the overall verdict of the people."

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A delegation from Freedom House, the United States human rights organization, found that the intimidation and other problems meant that the election was "essentially free but not entirely fair." That is, the caretaker British government here did not suppress the competition among political parties, but some parties did unfairly hinder their opponents.

The Freedom House group concluded that "the electoral result will approximately represent the distribution of current political force within Zimbabe's black population." (Zimbabwe is the name Rhodesia will assum after the election.)

Dr. Raymond Gastil, a Freedom House researcher, said the election may in part be "a result of the balance of intimidating force a person felt upon him," adding, "We are not prepared to say . . . that it [reflects] the will of the people."

Freedom House delegate Dr. Howard Penniman, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, summed up, "You're not going to get perfection in any country. to be sure, it's more difficult in a developing country."

And, he added, it would have been preferable had the elections here been preceded by "five years of peace, not five years of war."

Which raises the question: Is a government chosen so quickly after a long, bitter guerilla war necessarily the best government to attempt the reconstruction and reconciliation of the country and its people?

The British governor here, Lord Soames, is still saying that he may not necessarily choose the party with the greatest number of parliamentary seats to form the country's first independence government. He might reason that a coalition of smaller parties could, in the long run, form a more effective governmental leadership.

Of course, much depends on the distribution of seats. Many observers think that Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party will come up with a plurality -- though not necessarily a majority -- of the 80 black seats in the country's multiracial Parliament.


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