FOREIGN observer missions yesterday said Zimbabwe’s elections failed the credibility test after noting several irregularities in the whole electoral process.
The European Union elections observation mission (EU EOM), the Commonwealth observer group and the Carter Center all agreed that the pre-electoral environment was peaceful despite the irregularities.
They raised concerns over the arrest of 39 Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) and Election Resources Centre (ERC) Africa observers and the intimidation of voters by the Zanu PF affiliate, the Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ).
The Zesn and ERC observers appeared before Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna charged with disorderly conduct by attempting to announce election results prematurely and without authority.
They were granted US$200 bail each and ordered to report to their nearest police station thrice a week.
EU EOM chief observer Fabio Massino Castaldo said the elections failed the credibility test.
“The campaign presented voters with alternative viewpoints, but was marred by a lack of level playing field among contestants in terms of resources, security, and enjoyment of fundamental freedoms,” Castaldo said.
“Our observers witnessed tables set up in close proximity by an organisation called FAZ and received reports that members of the organisation were allegedly recording the names and identity numbers of voters.
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“We also noted that members of FAZ were also conducting citizen observation. Their presence fuelled allegations of voter intimidation.”
The Carter Center said the electoral environment was restricted and the administration of the elections lacked independence.
“The Carter Center has observed that the 2023 elections in Zimbabwe took place in a restricted political environment and that the administration of the elections lacked independence and transparency in key areas,” Carter Center mission observation leader Attahiru Muhammadu Jega said.
“Parliament did not pass important electoral reforms and, instead, adopted legislation targeting the country’s vibrant civil society, effectively silencing reform advocates and political opponents in the months leading up to the polls.
“Several critical technical aspects of the process were poorly or opaquely implemented, reducing the transparency and credibility of the elections.”
On election day, the Carter Center said its observers reported that while the voting process ran smoothly at most polling stations, but noted delays in delivery of voting material in Harare, Bulawayo, and Manicaland when polling stations opened.
“Although the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) extended voting hours, and the government officially proclaimed August 24 as an additional election day, many stakeholders expressed concerns that logistical delays may have depressed voter turnout in those areas,” the Center observed.
The Commonwealth observer group to Zimbabwe also raised similar concerns about the intimidation of voters by FAZ.
“We observed and received various reports that an NGO [non-governmental organisation] called FAZ had set up ‘exit poll survey’ tables in close proximity to polling stations, with governing party regalia,” the group’s chairperson Amina Mohamed said.
“From our briefings with other civil society organisations and stakeholders, it was made clear that exit polling is currently not permitted within the legal framework of Zimbabwe.”
Palestinian observation team head Hisham Kuhail, however, said the elections were credible.
“Despite the delay, opening procedures were transparent and were carried out according to international standards,” Kuhail said.
“The voting process followed international standards. In conclusion, the opening, the closing and counting processes were carried out in a transparent and efficient manner and according to internationally acceptable standards.”
In its statement, India also said the elections were credible.
“It was observed that the campaign was peaceful to a large extent, barring a few incidents as reported in the media. To sum up, the team is of the view that the polling was largely peaceful and successful. The election was transparent and generally credible,” India’s observer team said.