Zimbabwe’s first election since the ousting of Robert Mugabe did not meet international standards, European Union observers said on Wednesday in a report that raised a series of irregularities in the disputed vote.
The July 30 presidential poll saw Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa win with 50.8% of the votes, just enough to avoid a second round run-off against main challenger Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC Alliance.
Chamisa has refused to concede defeat, insisting that the outcome was manipulated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Mnangagwa sought to present the election as marking a new chapter for Zimbabwe after years of repression and economic decline, but a deadly military crackdown on protesters and allegations of rigging marred the vote.
“The elections fell short of international standards,” Mark Stevens, deputy head of the EU mission, told a press conference in the capital Harare.
Stevens said the election campaign and voting day were largely peaceful, but multiple factors affected the fairness of the result.
“The misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media, all in favour of the ruling party, meant that a truly level playing field was not achieved,” he said.
He noted irregularities such as some results not posted outside polling stations after the ballot count – as demanded by law.
“Such incidents added to concerns about the lack of transparency, traceability and verifiability of the vote,” he said, adding results were not “presented in a verifiable way.”
The EU also criticised “excessive use of force by security forces” when the military opened fire on opposition supporters in violence that left six dead after the election and the arrest of opposition members.
In a statement read on his behalf, EU Chief Observer Elmar Brok, made several recommendations.
“The EUEOM suggests that, in order to enhance confidence in the (electoral) process, to strengthen the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC); to ensure ZEC provides more effective and timely information during the process to enhance confidence; and for ZEC to develop the results management process to enhance verifiability and traceability.
“To help create a more level playing field and a more conducive environment for the polls, state-owned media must be more impartial in its coverage; legal measures should be introduced to mitigate abuse of incumbency and of state resources; and, campaign finance regulations should be introduced to enhance accountability.
“To improve the legal framework for the elections, legislation should be brought into line with the 2013 Constitution; and appropriate time limits for the determination of pre-election disputes need to be established.
“To make the electoral process more inclusive, areas of under-registration of voters need to be addressed; and Multi-Party Liaison Committees need to be used more effectively.”
Stevens added; “In terms of what this means to Zimbabwe, I would say the critical determining feature is what is the response to those short comings and … to try and put things right for the future.”
The opposition MDC party unsuccessfully challenged Mnangagwa’s victory in the Constitutional Court.
Mnangagwa was appointed in November last year after Mugabe was forced out by the military after 37 years in power.
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