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ZIEOM Releases Final Report on 2018 Zimbabwe Harmonized Elections: Relative Improvements Insufficient to Establish Broad Confidence in Electoral Process

October 29, 2018

Harare, Zimbabwe—The joint International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Zimbabwe International Election Observation Mission (ZIEOM) today announced the release of its final report on the harmonized elections that took place July 30, 2018. The report and its findings were part of a seven-month joint mission to observe all phases of the electoral process: the pre-election period, Election Day and the post-election period.

Based on its observation and in the context of 18 years of repressed political rights, deepening economic pain, and decades of deeply flawed elections (including widespread electoral violence in 2008), ZIEOM acknowledges that Zimbabwe has shown substantive, incremental improvements. Improvements noted by ZIEOM included a public commitment to credible elections, a more open political climate, the welcoming of international observers, and a fresh voters roll. However, these relative improvements were insufficient to demonstrate the broad confidence in the process needed to convince the populace that citizens are actually free to make political choices through a ballot that is secret and a process that respects the will of the people.

Notably, the tragic events on August 1 that resulted in the death of six civilians and the subsequent crackdown on opposition party leaders in the days following the elections raised serious concerns, as did malpractices such as the politicization of food aid, intimidation of voters, partisanship of traditional leaders and inordinate media bias.

Throughout the mission, NDI and IRI sought to express the international community’s interest in and support for credible, peaceful elections in Zimbabwe; provide an accurate and impartial report on the character of the election process to date; and offer appropriate recommendations to improve the electoral process. The mission was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, in conformity with the laws of Zimbabwe, and in reference to international and regional standards for democratic elections including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Guidelines and Principles for Democratic Elections and the African Union (AU) Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

The mission is grateful for the cooperation it received from all Zimbabweans with whom it interacted, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chair and election officials around the country, the leading presidential candidates, political party leaders, citizen election monitors, other civil society leaders.

IRI and NDI recognize that it is the people of Zimbabwe who will ultimately determine the credibility of their elections, and the Institutes stand ready to support the democratic process if there is will for reform. Those who seek to establish a genuine democratic transition will have to unite the country, work effectively with their political opposition and civil society, promote a tolerant multi-party system, a free and vibrant press, and work diligently to create a more responsive and accountable government.