Zimbabwe’s first election since the ousting of Robert Mugabe did not meet international standards, European Union observers said 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 percent of the votes, just enough to avoid a second round run-off.
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 criticized “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.
It called for Zimbabwe to make moves to ensure the independence of the electoral body.
The opposition MDC party unsuccessfully challenged Mnangagwa’s victory in court.
Mnangagwa was appointed in November last year after Mugabe was forced out by the military after 37 years in power.
The election, in which Mnangagwa and Chamisa were the main contenders, was touted as a crucial step towards shedding Zimbabwe’s pariah reputation and securing international donor funding to revive an economy suffering chronic shortages of investment and cash, as well as high unemployment.
An army crackdown in response to post-election violence by opposition supporters left six people dead on Aug. 1, recalling the heavy-handed security tactics that marked the 37-year rule of Mugabe, who was removed in a coup last November.
Mnangagwa now faces the challenge of persuading the international community that the army crackdown and lapses in the election process will not derail his promise of reforms to overcome corruption and mismanagement under Mugabe.
After the ruling was delivered, the president called for peace on his Twitter feed.
“Nelson Chamisa, my door is open and my arms are outstretched, we are one nation, and we must put our nation first. Let us all now put our differences behind us,” he said.
The army was deployed on unarmed civilians, and 3 people have reportedly died thus far.
Credit: AFP, The Indian Express
Image Credit: Reuters