EU okays Zim election preps

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Ranga Mataire

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Zimbabwe has said the political environment prevailing in the country is conducive for the holding of credible elections and urged contending parties to resolve any arising grievances within the confines of the multi-party liaison committee.

The multi-party liaison committee comprises representatives of contesting parties and individuals and was set up last November as a platform to resolve any concerns that might arise during the run-up to the harmonised elections scheduled for July 30.

In written responses to The Southern Times, Deputy Head of the EU EOM Mr Mark Stevens said his team was encouraged that political parties have been able to undertake campaigns around the country without any incidents of violence or intimidation.

“We are encouraged that political parties have been able to undertake their campaigns around the country. More broadly, and going forward, we consider it imperative for credible and transparent elections that voters can cast their ballot freely without any intimidation and in the absence of violence,” said Stevens.

On concerns raised by the MDC Alliance about alleged opaqueness of ZEC, Stevens said the mission “hoped that such matters could have been discussed in an inclusive and transparent manner” in the multi-party liaison committee.

“We are aware of the concerns raised regarding the voters roll and the ballot paper. The creation of a brand new biometric roll for the elections has been a major effort by ZEC. However, I understand that a number of contentious issues related to the roll have been evident, including the process for sharing the roll.

“With regard to the layout of the ballot and the modalities for its printing; while ultimate responsibility rests with ZEC, I would have hoped that such matters could have been discussed in an inclusive and transparent manner, for instance in the multi-party liaison committee, to ensure that all parties were involved and aware of the decision-making process.”

Stevens said his team has not faced any major challenges in executing their work as they have been warmly welcomed by stakeholders keen to engage them. He said the intention of the EU team was to meet a broad range of parties and civic society groups and institutions.

A core team of ten people and 44 long-term EU observers are currently on the ground overseeing the elections. Stevens said the current team in the country will soon be reinforced by another team of 44 short-term observers and a seven-member strong delegation of the European Union parliament and diplomats accredited in Harare.

In total, the EU EOM is expected to have a team of 140 election observers.

Commenting on the EU’s preliminary observations, Stevens said the team’s analysis is based on a long-term observation that comprises all aspects of the electoral process.

“We assess the legal framework, the performance of the election administration, voter registration, candidate nominations, campaign activities, respect for fundamental freedoms, access to and conduct of the media, voting, counting and transmission of results, and the period after the polls,” said Stevens.

He said the EU EOM will present its preliminary findings at a press conference to be conducted two days after the Election Day with a comprehensive final report being released at a later stage.

Besides the EU, the regional bloc- Sadc has also said the run-up to the July 30 polls was conducive for credible elections.

Speaking after a meeting with Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Sadc Troika ambassadors accredited in Zimbabwe comprising of South Africa, Angola and Namibia said they were happy with the prevailing peace in the country, which was a prerequisite for free and fair elections.

Namibian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mrs Balbina Daes Pienaar, whose country is the Sadc deputy chair, said the regional bloc’s technical teams were on the ground observing electoral processes.

“I can tell (you) together with my colleagues that the situation so far is very peaceful. Zimbabwe is a peaceful country and this can be seen.

“We believe that the elections will be free, fair and credible. We are committed to producing free, fair and credible elections,” said Ambassador Daes Pienaar.

His Angolan counterpart, Mr Pedro Hendrik Vaal Neto, whose country chairs the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, said the majority of Zimbabweans had confidence in the electoral process.

“We have been observing how the process is going and we are pleased to see that all participants are interested in keeping the process totally peaceful and commitment of the Government and institutions to have free and fair elections,” Mr Hendrik Vaal Neto said.

South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mphakama Mbete whose country is the current Sadc chair said; “Overall, we got a sense from the Acting Minister that Zimbabwe has a high level of maturity and really wants to have this major project in the evolving and growing democracy to succeed. We think the meeting was transparent and open.”

This year’s elections are likely to have an unprecedented huge number of election observes following the invitation of over 40 countries and regional blocs by the Government.

Information from ZEC shows that so far the total number of election observers in the country has risen to 915 with 486 being local observers, 159 foreign, 29 foreign accredited journalists and 241 local journalists.

Sadc has said that Zimbabwe’s preparations are in line with the regional body’s standards.

At the conclusion of the regional Council of Ministers Meeting in Pretoria last week, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations, whose country chairs Sadc said: “Zimbabwe’s new President committed to uphold the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principle and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in the hope of securing a regional seal of approval.”

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