The African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM) to the July harmonised elections has released its final report endorsing the polls as a true reflection of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. Although the mission raised a few loose ends that needed to be tied up, it commended the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for successfully managing the election beyond reproach against a backdrop of poor funding by the inclusive Government.
The AU chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Zuma, dispatched a team led by former Nigerian President General Olusegun Obasanjo, deputized by Dr Aisha Abdullahi, the AU commissioner for political affairs to observe the elections.
“The voting and counting processes took place in a peaceful and tranquil environment. Most of the polling stations observed by the AUEOM opened on time and were generally fully staffed, with all the required materials and adequately secured by the ZRP.
“Voting was conducted in an atmosphere devoid of violence, harassment and disturbances. The AUEOM observed generally, that from a historical perspective and in comparison to the 2008 elections, Zimbabwe has taken an important step in the conduct of its elections.”
The AU noted the elections were held according to Sadc principles and guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections adopted by Sadc Heads of State and Governments in Mauritius in 2004.
President Mugabe garnered 2 110 434 (61.09 percent) of the vote, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai 1 172 349 (33.94 percent), Welshman Ncube 92 637 (2.68 percent), Dumiso Dabengwa 25 416 (0.74 percent), Kisinoti Mukwazhe 9 931 (0.29 percent).
Zanu-PF won overwhelmingly in the National Assembly, gaining 197 seats after factoring in 60 women elected by proportional representation, while MDC-T has 70, MDC two with one independent.
The AU election observer team acknowledged massive improvements made in the manner the ZEC conducted the July harmonised elections compared to previous polls.
“The AUEOM further noted the initiatives taken by the ZEC to recruit and train officials who were professionals in the conduct of the process on Election Day. The AUEOM commended the ZEC for the high number of women recruited as polling staff during the harmonised elections. This was a positive development for the participation of women in the electoral process.”
The AU report put to rest the MDC’s argument that the elections were not conducted in a free and fair environment as it also failed to furnish rigging evidence leading to the dismissal of Mr Tsvangirai’s case at the Constitutional Court seeking to nullify President Mugabe’s landside victory.
The AU concluded that the polls were free and fair after adopting a long term election observation methodology that covered the pre-election, election and post election phases.
The AU teams visited 52 of the 62 districts in the country’s 10 provinces and consulted with ZEC officials, President Mugabe, Mr Tsvangirai, the then Ministers of Justice and Finance Cde Patrick Chinamasa and Mr Tendai Biti respectively, all presidential candidates, the Registrar General of Voters, diplomats and civil society among others.
The observer team deployed 26 teams in all 10 provinces and they witnessed the final stages of the campaigns, pre-polling activities and counting processes and visited 350 of the 9700 polling stations.
The report chronicled the history of the country’s liberation struggle and Zanu-PF’s victory, the inter-party dialogue, the inclusive Government era, the National Constitution making process, the election period, President Mugabe’s inauguration and Mr Tsvangirai’s election petition.
The AUEOM, however, raised some issues that it implored authorities to address in future elections.
“In general, while the AUEOM observes that the July 2013 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe were professionally and successfully conducted by the ZEC despite the financial, time and staff constraints, based on the overall observations of the AUEOM, it offers the following recommendations to help address some of the shortcomings identified.”
Some of the recommendations are:
1 Provide funding consistently and timeously
2 Voters roll to be availed 14 days before polls
3 Publicise election time-frames and conduct voter education on time
4 Improve security markings on ballot papers
5 Consider using police to assist voters
6 Provide parties access to public media.