EU says Zimbabwe vote failed to meet standards


Harare (New Ziana) – A European Union (EU) election observer mission alleged on Friday curtailed rights and lack of a level playing field, characterized by intimidation and disorderliness, might have made it difficult for voters in Zimbabwe’s mid-week general elections to make free and informed choices.
The election was held on Wednesday to choose a new president, and parliamentary and local government representatives for the next five years.
The EU sharply opposes the incumbent government in Zimbabwe, against whom it has founded and financed opposition parties to unseat for the last two decades.
It has also imposed illegal economic sanctions on the country since 2 000, seen by the government as an attempt to stir up public resentment of, and opposition to, the authorities.
In its preliminary report on the elections, the EU Observation Mission (EU EOM) said Zimbabwe had the legal framework to conduct elections in line with international standards if implemented properly.
EU EOM chief observer, Fabio Massimo Castaldo, said: “The passing of regressive legal provisions and acts of violence and intimidation resulted in a climate of fear. The violent arrest of members of accredited citizen observer organisations ZESN and ERC, who exercised their constitutional rights, on 23 August, is of great concern. Ultimately the elections fell short of many regional and international standards, including key principles of equality, universality, transparency and accountability.”
Castaldo said while the EU EOM found the election day to be calm, the election process overall was hampered by significant issues regarding the independence and transparency of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and accused the elections management body of missing opportunities to increase public trust in the integrity of voting and results management.
“The failure of ZEC to provide critical electoral material such as paper ballots resulted in many polling stations opening with severe delays, leading to an increasingly tense atmosphere in some locations,” he said. “The EU EOM also noted the central role of the judiciary in the process, given the unprecedented high number of pre-election court challenges, pertaining to both: right to contest and validity of all key legal texts, some of which remain unresolved. The campaign presented voters with a range of viewpoints, but there was a lack of level playing field, particularly regarding the freedom of assembly.”
Castaldo said the EU EOM’s media analysis revealed similar short-comings with the State-controlled media allocating substantially more airtime and printspace to the ruling party, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the government.
The EU EOM experienced problems in assessing official bodies despite an administrative arrangement between the Zimbabwean government and the EU which stipulated access to all participants in the electoral process, Castaldo alleged, adding that the EU EOM deplored the “extensive and sustained disinformation and defamation campaign in some media and social platforms against the EU EOM and other international observer organisations”.
The EU EOM was among dozens of local, regional and international election observer teams invited by the Zimbabwe government to witness the poll.
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