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Worry as Zim ignores EU poll recommendations

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ZIMBABWE has failed to effect critical recommendations of the European Union (EU) Election Observer Mission (EOM) that observed the 2018 harmonised elections with the grouping warning of a potentially chaotic 2023 poll if the key issues remain unresolved.

MOSES MATENGA

The EU dispatched an observer mission in 2018 to witness the first election after the coup that overthrew the late former president Robert Mugabe and saw him being replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa who faced off with main opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa in a tightly contested race.

Mnangagwa narrowly won the disputed election that Chamisa’s camp claimed were rigged by the Zanu PF regime allegedly working closely with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

As part of the 2018 recommendations, the observer mission called for the independence of Zec, an improved level playing field, a better legal framework and the inclusiveness of the process.

The mission said state-owned media must be more impartial in its coverage. It also recommended that Zimbabwe introduce legal measures to mitigate the abuse of incumbency and of state resources.

In its follow-up mission to Zimbabwe, Elmar Brok, a former member of the European Union Parliament and chief observer of the EU Election Observer Mission to the 2018 general elections, said a lot of recommendations have to date been ignored.

The EU team met with political parties including Zanu PF, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) and the MDC-T.

“To date, progress on the implementation of the EU EOM recommendations has been limited, with the majority of the priority ones not yet adequately addressed,” Broke told journalists yesterday after completion of the follow-up mission.

“The EOM welcomes that stakeholder consultations on some legal reforms have taken place or are ongoing but notes with concern that the adoption of important reforms such as amendments to the Electoral Act remain outstanding.”

The EOM proposed 23 recommendations, including 10 priority ones aimed at aligning the Electoral Act with the 2013 constitution, strengthening the independence of Zec and increasing its information-sharing throughout the electoral process.

Other recommendations included improving voter registration as well as the transparency, verifiability and integrity of the results management process, introducing legal measures to mitigate abuse of state resources, among others.

There were also recommendations to develop regulations on political party financing, reforming the state-owned media to fully guarantee their independence and impartiality.

The mission said although it appreciated initiatives by Zec to increase its engagement through the multi-party liaison committees at district and provincial level, there was consideration that further determined efforts are needed to fully respond to its role as an independent and transparent election management body.

“This includes that there is more transparency on every step of the electoral process on local, regional and national level,” Brok said.

The observer mission warned that if the recommendations are not met, it was likely the outcome will be disputed.

“If the authorities and the legislators do not address recurring problems related to voter registration, constituency delimitation, level playing field in the campaign, partisan behaviour of traditional leaders and public administration, freedoms of expression, assembly and of the media, they will undermine progress towards achieving an environment conducive to a greater level of public trust in the electoral process and peaceful elections,” Brok said.

Brok said there was also concern over the laws the government was pushing that were likely to undermine the electoral process and affect the running of elections.

One of the laws, Brok said, is the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill which will have an impact on freedom of expression.

The Zanu PF government is vigorously pursuing the PVOs Amendment Bill amid internal fears non-governmental organisations were plotting and funding the opposition to effect regime change.

“We are concerned that if the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill is adopted, it will severely impact the freedom of association and restrict legitimate activities of civil society organisations.”

“Therefore, we urge the authorities and the legislature to reconsider, keeping in mind Zimbabwe’s international commitment. We heard also concerns from part of the opposition and civil society that amendments to the criminal law might be introduced which would endanger the freedom of expression.”

A final report by the mission will be published at the beginning of next month.

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