HARARE, AUG 1 — The European Union Election Observer Mission to the Zimbabwean elections has alleged an unlevel playing field that saw intimidation of voters and lack of trust undermining the pre-election environment.
The mission however noted an improved political climate, inclusive participation rights and a peaceful vote.
“We now hope for a transparent and traceable results process,” a preliminary report on the conduct of the July 30 elections said Wednesday.
It said many previous elections had been contentious and with reports of abuses, and so while the commitment to hold credible elections by President Emmerson Mnangagwa was welcomed, a legacy of the past was a low level of trust in the democratic process and institutions.
“The elections were competitive, the campaign was largely peaceful and, overall, political freedoms during the campaign, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech, were respected,” it said.
“However, the misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behavior by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media, all in favor of the ruling (Zanu-PF) party, meant that a truly level playing field was not achieved.”
The EU became the first observer mission to issue an unflattering report on the process but also welcomed some improvements related to the introduction of some administrative and legal changes to the electoral process.
“The introduction of a number of legal and administrative changes was welcomed, including increasing the number of polling stations, limiting voters to voting only at their registered station, and limiting the number of excess ballots to be printed,” it said.
It said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had put in place administrative arrangements for the holding of the polls as scheduled but the potentially positive measures were undermined by electoral body’s persistent lack of inclusivity and transparency.
It also accused the state broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) of failing to abide by its legal obligation to ensure equitable and fair treatment to all political parties and candidates.
“State-owned TV, radio and newspapers, which dominate the media landscape, were heavily biased in favor of the ruling party and incumbent president in their election-related coverage,” it said. – XINHUA