THE European Union (EU) says its chief election observer, Fabio Massimo Castaldo, failed to access the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) during the just-ended polls despite assurances made in an administrative arrangement made between Harare and Brussels.
Ahead of the 23 and 24 August elections, Zimbabwe and the bloc entered into an agreement concerning the observation of the elections.
Zimbabwe was represented by the then Foreign Affairs minister Amon Murwira while the head of the EU mission in the country inked the contract on behalf of the election observation mission.
Jobst von Kirchman, head of the EU mission in Zimbabwe, told The NewsHawks that part of the administrative arrangement had not been met.
“This mission should have, according to the agreement which we had signed with the government, have access to all electoral bodies and be fully supported by the government and our chief observer Fabio Castaldo could not even meet Zec so this gives you an idea on what level of access,” von Kirchman said in an exclusive interview.
The administrative arrangement seen by The NewsHawks stipulated: “The Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe will guarantee EOM and its members freedom of access to all bodies of the electoral administration, as well as to all information relevant to the electoral process during the whole period of its presence in the country.”
“On polling day and thereafter the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe will guarantee the EU EOM and its members, including EOM national staff, freedom of access, at any time, to all polling stations and counting/tabulation centres in order to observe voting and counting procedures, and the tabulation, aggregation and transmission of results.”
The EU, von Kirchman said, also expressed its discontent on the “ongoing defamation” on the bloc’s election observation mission. The mission was accused of manipulating the Southern African Development Community election observation mission preliminary report and “distributing whiskey” to locals and civil society members during the election, claims von Kirchman dismissed.
He said contrary to reports that the EU had unilaterally extended financial support to Zimbabwe’s election management body, the authorities in Harare had, in fact, requested support from the bloc.
“When you read the preliminary statement of our mission, you will see that it says at some point that Zec missed the opportunity to increase public trust in the electoral process and also voter registration,” he said.
“As a consequence of that, we have suspended our financial support to Zec. As a reply, in state media, it was said that was a very good thing because the Zimbabwe government never wanted that support. This support has been provided upon request by the government and in November 2022, we signed a joint financing agreement and we did a joint Press release where Zimbabwe actually requested and agreed to the support of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and our support.”
Relations between the EU and Zimbabwe reached low levels after the bloc released an adverse preliminary report which revealed that the elections fell short of meeting regional and international standards.
Castaldo is expected to submit a full report to Zimbabwe next month which will also provide recommendations on handling future elections in line with internationally accepted practices.