UNITED States-based Carter Center has accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of lacking independence and credibility to run elections.
A number of election observers have flagged the polls as not credible and failing to meet local, regional and international guidelines on holding free, fair and credible elections.
In its preliminary report on Zimbabwe’s 2023 harmonised elections, the Carter Center said the legal framework governing Zec operations did not fully ensure institutional independence.
“The legal framework governing Zec operations does not fully ensure institutional independence; this includes the need to obtain approval from the Minister of Justice for legislative amendments proposed by Zec, among other things,” the report said.
The report also said confidence in Zec’s management of electoral processes was damaged by delays and unequal drawing of constituency boundaries.
“Confidence in the Zec’s management of electoral processes was damaged by delays and unequal drawing of constituency boundaries; the lack of engagement and consultation about the design, printing, and distribution of ballot papers that were distributed late on election day, particularly in Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland.
“Problems (were) uncovered during the inspection of the voters roll and Zec’s failure to provide the voters roll to political parties in a researchable format, among other things.
“The conduct of Zec often lacked transparency, and its communications were not always effective or timely. The commission did not engage effectively with electoral stakeholders, including both domestic and international observer organisations,” the report read.
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The Carter Center also said while some parts of the process were extensively covered, Zec did not provide detailed information on voting procedures, the voters roll, or the tallying of results.
It said such information would foster transparency and confidence in the electoral process.
“The Zec did not gazette the final (updated) list of all candidates, and in some constituencies and wards, ballots were printed and used despite pending court cases challenging a candidate’s nomination or rejection of registration,” the report said.
Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections dating back to 1980 when the country gained independence from British colonial rule when the favourite to win the poll, the late Joshua Nkomo — popularly known as Father Zimbabwe back then — lost to his late liberation wartime ally Robert Mugabe.
Electoral disputes escalated when strong opposition to the ruling Zanu PF party emerged in 2000 in the form of the Movement for Democratic Change party led by the late trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai.
For the first time the Sadc election observer mission broke tradition and issued a damning report, attracting angry outbursts from Harare with Zanu PF dismissing Sadc’s conclusion that the polls were neither free nor fair.