‘Zimbabwe’s Recent Elections Didn’t Meet Democratic Standards’- SADC, AU Observers

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) issued a rare public reprimand on Friday, casting doubt on the credibility of Zimbabwe’s recently concluded elections. The bloc’s statement pointed out that the elections did not adhere to the principles and guidelines that govern the conduct of democratic elections.

The SADC’s decision not to endorse the August 23rd polls represents a significant setback for Zimbabwe, a nation striving to shed its pariah status, which it has grappled with for decades. Preliminary results indicated a closely contested race between President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party and the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in parliamentary elections.

Although parliamentary results were announced, the announcement of the presidential election results was delayed due to extended voting in certain urban wards. The SADC’s observation mission, led by former Zambian vice president Nevers Mumba, acknowledged that while the elections were relatively peaceful, they failed to meet regional standards.

Dr. Mumba stated, “The mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases, on 23-24 August 2023 harmonised elections were peaceful and calm. The mission noted that some aspects of the harmonised elections fell short of the requirements of the constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021).”

The mission urged all parties involved in the elections to address any electoral disputes through established legal channels.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, heading the joint African Union and COMESA observer missions, noted the general peace and transparency of the elections. He stated, “The elections were conducted in a generally peaceful and transparent manner despite the logistical challenges affecting the voting material.”

This marks the second time that SADC has declined to endorse Zimbabwean elections. In 2008, this led to the formation of a unity government between then-leader Robert Mugabe and the opposition.

President Mnangagwa expressed frustration that some observers arrived with preconceived notions about Zimbabwe’s elections, though his criticism was largely aimed at Western groups. His government has also been criticized for targeting local poll monitors and observers who allegedly intended to announce parallel results favoring the opposition.

Amidst the election-related tensions, Zimbabwe deported foreign researchers and faced accreditation challenges for journalists. The Carter Center, EU observer mission, and other entities have raised concerns over access and attempts to discredit their missions.

President Mnangagwa, who assumed power in 2017 following a military coup, has faced allegations of election manipulation as he seeks his last term. He had previously invited foreign observers to showcase Zimbabwe’s commitment to conducting transparent elections. The SADC’s verdict underscores the challenges faced by the nation in achieving broader international acceptance of its electoral processes.

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