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Election official work with candle light at a polling station for Zimbabwes presidential and legislative elections in Bulawayo, on 23 August 2023. (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

Irregularities Cast Shadow over Zimbabwe Election

HARARE – In the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s recent elections, widespread concerns have surfaced regarding irregularities and challenges, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the process.

The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) said Zimbabwe’s election failed to meet international and regional standards. The mission cited regressive legal changes, violence and intimidation, and lack of transparency as the main flaws.

“The election process created a climate of fear. The arrest of members of accredited citizen observer groups ZESN and ERC, who exercised their constitutional rights, is of great concern,” said Chief Observer Castaldo, in the group’s preliminary statement.

Andreas Schieder, head of the European Parliament (EP) delegation, also condemned the raids and endorsed the EU EOM statement.

Castaldo said the Election Day was calm, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) did not ensure public trust in the voting and results management. He said the ZEC failed to provide critical electoral material, such as paper ballots, resulting in severe delays in many polling stations.

He also noted the central role of the judiciary in the process, given the high number of pre-election court challenges, some of which remain unresolved.

Castaldo said the campaign was not fair, especially regarding the freedom of assembly. He said the state-controlled media favored the ruling party, President Mnangagwa, and the government.

He said the EU EOM faced problems in accessing official bodies, despite an agreement with the Zimbabwean government. He also deplored a disinformation and defamation campaign against the EU EOM and other international observers.

Meanwhile, local observers, like Zivanai Muwashu, Trustee for Save The Needy House, highlighted logistical challenges and disturbances throughout the voting process, underscoring the need for a smoother electoral process.

“Despite the early arrival of voters, delays plagued the distribution of ballot papers, sparking suspicion among the populace,” Muwashu remarked.

Assigned to Chitungwiza, Zengeza, Ward 11, Muwashu and fellow observers said they witnessed disturbances and clashes throughout the voting process.

“Disruptions persisted, with voting halted prematurely due to power outages, disenfranchising eager voters still in line,” Muwashu said.

In response to the contested elections, the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) said it is engaging with SADC countries, calling for support in demanding new elections. It says it has abandoned the litigation route due to concerns about the judiciary’s impartiality.

Since attaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has experienced numerous disputed polls.