A free and fair election

During the campaign trail, President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a clean election and this has come to pass.

Preliminary findings by local and foreign observers point to a peaceful pre-election period.

Foreign observers, including from countries that were previously unfriendly to Harare, were allowed to observe local elections for the first time in 16 years.

The only stain to the plebiscite has been the violence instigated by the MDC-Alliance in Harare on August 1.

Until then, the election was largely incident-free.

Zimbabwe’s elections have in the past been marred by violence, intimidation and various irregularities.

Since November last year, Government has been investing in cleansing the country’s toxic politics.

Observers have since noted that in the just-ended elections, there were isolated cases of violence.

“The elections took place in a generally peaceful and calm environment, with no major incidents of violence and restriction on the activities of political parties and candidates observed,” observed the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM).

“The process was highly competitive as evidenced by the high number of presidential, National Assembly and local council candidates.

“As an indication of the marked improvement in the political space, the AUEOM notes a very low threshold requirement for registration of political parties and candidates to contest the elections.”

AUEOM, which was led by Mr Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, former Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, concluded that the election was well administered and hoped that results will reflect the will of the people.

He said: “The 2018 elections is an important moment in Zimbabwe’s democratic transition and provides an opportunity for the country to change course; in particular, broadening the political space and allowing citizens to exercise their constitutional rights in a democratic way.

“By and large, the process was peaceful and well-administered.”

The Electoral Commissions Forum of Sadc countries (ECF- SADC) went further.

Their report concluded that Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections should be adopted as best practice in the Sadc region.

Mission head Justice Semistocles Kaijage said the hallmark of the election was tolerance and peace. On polling day, the mission reported, most polling stations allowed for smooth flow of voters and the secrecy of the vote was safeguarded.

The Sadc Election Observer Mission (SEOM) established that the election, which was peaceful and orderly, opened the door to strengthen the country’s democracy.

The mission concluded that the election was in compliance with the revised Sadc Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

“It is significant to note and appreciate, therefore, that both the SEAC and the Long-Term Observation Mission observed that there had been a remarkable transformation in the exercise and protection of civil and political rights in Zimbabwe compared to the 2008 presidential run-off,” concluded the mission.

“Further to this, the SEOM notes that Zimbabwe has welcomed international election observers, some of whom were previously barred or not invited to observe elections in Zimbabwe.

“This is a commendable move towards electoral transparency and confidence-building in the electoral process.”

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), on the other hand, concluded that it had noted significant improvements in the electoral process compared to previous elections.

“Zimbabweans turned out in large numbers in polling stations that the Mission observed as manifested by the long queues forming way before voting started. Voting processes progressed smoothly in a calm, well-organised and orderly environment. Local and international observers had full access to all polling stations and were welcomed by all stakeholders,” said the regional bloc in its preliminary report.

The Mission also noted that ZEC had provided adequate voting booths which were arranged in a way that ensured privacy and secrecy of the vote.

While the mission witnessed long queues at some polling stations, it established that this was due to the large numbers of voters present at each polling station at the time of opening.

“Most of the voters were able to cast their votes without any challenges.

“However, few voters were reported to have been turned away because they did not either possess valid national identification or did not appear in the voters’ roll, while others were redirected to their polling stations.

“Voters with special needs, including the elderly, expectant mothers, persons with disability were given priority, and assisted to cast their votes.

“Furthermore, at several polling stations, the Mission was informed by the electoral officials that over 50 percent of registered voters had cast their votes by early afternoon.

“The Mission observed that though the ballot papers were printed in black and white, they were generally readable,” they said.

International observers, including the Chinese and Indian observer missions, endorsed the election.Leader of the Chinese Observer Mission Mr Liu Guijin told journalists last week: “My impression is that this election, the preparation and ballot process is peaceful, orderly and the outcome naturally will be credible.

“For Zimbabwe, this is an important moment. I hope that this election will be a new start; a new start for peace, development and prosperity. . ..

“If the opposition has different opinions or disputes, they should resort to peaceful means, to constitutional means to resolve the problem and refrain from going onto the street and to destroy people’s properties.”

While noting some irregularities, the European Union Election Observation Mission concluded that the election was a “well-managed and peaceful process”.

“On the day of the election, EU observers reported positively on the conduct of voting. Zimbabwean citizens turned out in large numbers and despite some lengthy queues, the voting process was managed well by polling officials who worked hard to process voters.

“Some problems with the voter roll, or lack of voter awareness of their polling location, were evident. Party agents were present in most places, but polling officials did not always check for indelible ink. Further, there appeared to be a high degree of assisted voting in some places.

“The vote count in polling stations was reasonably well organised, though procedures were not always followed, inconsistencies were noted and there was inadequate light in some places.  “The result was posted at the polling station in many instances, but not all.

“The collation of results is on-going and we continue to observe this. It is important that the final results are shared in a manner which provides for full transparency and accountability, including a breakdown by polling station.”

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