EU final report fingers ZEC, judiciary, FAZ for aiding Mnangagwa poll “victory”

HARARE – The European Union Election Observer Mission (EOM) to Zimbabwe’s August 2023 polls has reinforced its earlier position the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), judiciary, and the spooky Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ) combined to discredit Zimbabwe’s controversial election which saw incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa August declared winner.

Presenting the mission’s final report on the poll, Fabio Massimo Castaldo, who headed of delegation, highlighted how these violated regional and international election standards.

Castaldo was speaking during a virtual press conference on Friday.

The report specifically pointed how the regulatory framework and new legal provisions impacted the fairness, credibility, and freedom of the plebiscite.

“The procedures during voting were largely followed, as noted by EU EOM observers, but some important processes, such as the public posting of polling station result protocols, were not consistently implemented, especially during the counting.

“Overall, results management was efficiently organised; however, certain reporting mechanisms lacked transparency.

“The judiciary played a key role in the process. All legal instruments regulating the election and all key phases of the process were challenged before the court.

“The acute lack of confidence expressed by many interlocutors in the judiciary raised concerns about the role of courts in settling electoral disputes and on public confidence in its rulings,” read the report in part.

The EU report also criticised recent laws that eroded separation of powers and limited civic and political freedoms.

It also highlighted several instances of hindrances to observer activities, including cumbersome accreditation procedures by ZEC and coordinated media campaigns against citizen and international observer groups.

“Moreover, laws recently passed eroded the separation of powers and curtailed the rights of assembly, association, and expression, limiting the civic and political space.

“The regulatory framework is insufficient and lacks important procedural details. ZEC’s inconsistent publication of its regulations compromised principles of transparency, accessibility, and legal certainty,” the report added.

The mission said the adoption of the ‘patriotic provisions’ of the Criminal Code in July 2023, legislative work on the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) bill, and selective implementation of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MPOA) closed space for the exercise of freedoms of association, assembly, and expression.

It also criticised undesired police actions that prevented civic monitoring of election results and intimidated civil society organisations conducting sample-based result projections.

One major issue raised in the report was the absence of publicly available data, disaggregated by polling stations, which hindered independent verification of election results.

“The ZEC chairperson announced the presidential results on 26 August, declaring Mr. Mnangagwa elected with 52.6 percent of the valid votes, followed by Mr. (Nelson) Chamisa with 44 percent.

“Despite requests from opposition and civil society and the practice in previous elections, ZEC did not publish election results per polling station.

“The lack of public access to disaggregated results, combined with police actions against CSOs conducting result projections, prevented stakeholders from verifying the final results and impacted the public acceptance of the electoral process and diminished ZEC’s accountability,” reads the report.

The report also highlighted a further deterioration in the human rights situation following the election, with crackdowns on civil society and targeted actions against human rights defenders and opposition figures.

Recommendations for the final EU (EOM) include; enhancing election organisation and management in Zimbabwe, maintaining ZEC and its staff independence, providing timely and thorough information to the public, and protecting the freedom to assemble.

The report also advocated the avoidance of unnecessary restrictions on observation operations and the preservation of the judiciary’s independence.

Additionally, ZEC was urged to publish electoral results in a timely manner, disaggregated by polling stations.

*EU final report biased, misleading: Govt*

GOVERNMENT dismissed as biased, reactionary and misleading a premeditated final report on the 2023 harmonised elections that was released by the European Union (EU) yesterday.

Although the country’s elections have been endorsed by most bodies, the EU, which was apparently rooting for the opposition, released a final report that analysts, said was not worth the paper it is written on.

Ahead of the elections, the EU showed its bias towards the opposition and even surreptitiously recruited some in the SADC Elections Observer Mission, to harmonise their reports, but that all flopped as SADC, and the African Union (AU) ultimately declared the plebiscite peaceful, free and credible.

In a statement last night, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said the EOM sought to misrepresent Government’s adherence to the demands of the Constitution in the August 23-24 harmonised elections, but even so, the reactionary tendencies by the Western world will not derail the country’s irreversible march to prosperity.

This, the minister said, was because the elections were now a closed chapter, and Zimbabweans, under the leadership of President Mnangagwa were focused on keeping the development momentum towards Vision 2030, to become an upper-middle-class economy.

“The report focuses on a closed episode of our national political cycle. Zimbabwe is now at the height of implementing His Excellency President Cde Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s development agenda.

“At the same time, the Government is aware of the colonial traditional reactionary aspersions of those perennially inclined to subvert the will of our people by misrepresenting facts about Zimbabwe’s political environment before, during and after the elections,” he said.

During the August 23 harmonised elections, Dr Muswere said, all due processes were adhered to before, during and after.

“Section 93 of the constitution provides for the legal processes to be followed in the event that there are election disputes.

“However, after the announcement of the election results, there was no legal challenge to the process or the outcome of the election which gave legitimacy to the status–quo.

“The question of the outcome of the elections was decided by the people of Zimbabwe on the 23-24 August 2023 elections,” said the Minister.

The minister said it was unfortunate that the report sought to impugn Zimbabwe’s democratic processes.

“The Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe takes note of the misleading European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) 2023 Harmonised Election final Report which seeks to impugn Zimbabwe’s democratic processes,” he said.

President Mnangagwa’s administration, Dr Muswere said, was well aware of the observer mission’s clandestine efforts to soil the country’s democratic processes.

All these efforts, he said, had proved futile as President Mnangagwa had come out victorious.

“The Government is fully aware of the EU EOM’s irregular nocturnal meetings with opposition political players outside conventional election observation parameters.

“We also know that the EU EOM disbursed campaign funds to a particular opposition party in flagrant violation of the Political Parties Finances Act.

“We also have substantial evidence of the EU EOM’s clandestine operations with other Election Observer Missions (EOMs) for the purposes of manipulating their reports to discredit the election outcome,” he said.

On the other hand, Zanu PF’s National spokesperson Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa said the EU report was a “big yawn of expected biases”.

“It is already year end and southern Africans, including their hardworking Zimbabweans, are busy focussed on the main cropping season. The Luanda SADC Summit deliberated on the final and useful aspects of the Zimbabwe election,” he said.

The report, said Ambassador Mutsvangwa, would not deter Zimbabwe from continuing on its current development and growth trajectories.

“Tendentious comments from those with a coloured historical past will not distract us from the more pressing task of inclusive and wholesome nation building,” he said.

Political analyst Dr Hamadziripi Dube said there was a sharp contrast between what had transpired during the elections period and what the EU’s report was alleging.

“EU EOM report for August harmonised elections seems to be disengaging itself from reality which was on the ground during election time. There was freedom of campaign we saw Nelson Chamisa making inroads in rural areas which was one of the difficulties the opposition was facing in previous elections. This workable space he got it from election reforms implemented by the Government of the Second republic.

“No violence was registered in almost all new areas where Chamisa got better results than before. This clearly shows and prove that the electoral mood was way different from the previous years”.

Political commentator and lecturer Dr Tongai Danha said the EU’s report was problematic as they had already “disregarded” Zimbabwe’s elections before the polling day.

“Election statements or concerns expressed by observers should not necessarily imply a disregard for the elections themselves but to encourage improvements and promote transparency and fairness in the electoral process to ensure that elections meet international standards and reflect the will of the people.

“However, it becomes a problem when elections are disregarded beforehand will be a reflection of one-sided perspective possibly the opposition side yet It’s important to consider multiple perspectives and sources of information,” he said.

Dr Danha said the report had not been reflective of the peace and tranquil that had prevailed throughout the electoral period but was instead skewed in the opposition’s favour.

“In my reading of the report, I do not see the side of Zanu PF the political party that later won the election, who will speak the side of Zanu PF then. The will of the people has to be respected.

“With this in mind, questions of impartiality of evaluation of the electoral process are raised,” he said.

Ahead of the elections, known Zimbabwean critics and intelligence agents from the Western world had been deployed to play the role of referee from Brussels, reportedly with the instruction to gather damning information around the elections.

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