INTERNATIONAL observers watching over Zimbabwe’s watershed elections have raised the red flag over the way Monday’s elections were held, although those based in the region largely gave a thumbs-up to the disputed polls.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/VENERANDA LANGA
European Union Election Observer Mission chief observer Elmar Brok, while noting improvements in the political climate and in particular the peace prevailing during the election, said “un-level playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the pre-election environment”.
“These elections were seen as a critical test of Zimbabwe’s reform process. In some senses, up to this point, the conduct of the polls has had a number of positive features, but in other senses, serious concerns remain. Now we hope for a transparent results process,” Brok said.
He urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to speed up the process of announcing the presidential result, indicating this could help increase the credibility of the poll.
“While political rights were largely respected, there were concerns regarding the environment for the polls, the misuse of State resources and the failure to achieve a level playing field.
“Observers reported widely on efforts to undermine the free expression of the will of electors, through inducements, pressure and coercion against prospective voters to try to ensure a vote in favour of the ruling party. Such practices also included attempts to undermine confidence in the secrecy of the vote, and manipulation of food aid and agricultural programmes,” Brok said.
“For Zimbabwe to embrace democracy and move on from the past, such practices must stop.”
The opposition MDC Alliance has cried foul, claiming Zanu PF was abusing agricultural inputs and food aid to coerce villagers to vote for its candidates.
With MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa having declared he would not accept any result that does not favour him, Brok urged all contestants to wait for the results.
“They [candidates] must be optimistic. It is also imperative for all parties to wait for the final result and to remain peaceful throughout,” he said.
The head of the delegation of the European Parliament, Manuel Neuser, weighed in, saying: “These elections are a crucial step — but only a step — in Zimbabwe’s reform process. Elections are not an end in themselves, but an important part of a process of change. People have high hopes for the future and, regardless of who wins, it is the duty of political leaders to work to improve the lives of all citizens.”
The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) international observer mission and United States said the electoral process failed to meet the mark.
The IRI observer mission, led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and NDI delegation, led by former Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza, said there was limited transparency, and limited public confidence in the administration of the election.
United States representative and Congresswoman Karen Bass said the manner in which the elections were handled would be pivotal in determining whether the US would change its policy on Zimbabwe or not.
The IRI and NDI said it was the people of Zimbabwe who will ultimately determine the credibility of their elections.
But the African Union, Sadc, Sadc Parliamentary Forum, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) all expressed satisfaction with the way Zec handled the polls.