EU appeals for calm in Zimbabwe

Written by Martin Banks on 3 August 2018 in News

EPP group MEP Elmar Brok has voiced serious concerns about the recent elections in trouble-torn Zimbabwe.

Photo credit: Press Association

The German deputy was speaking after the elections in the country, the first since long-term leader Robert Mugabe was ousted.

Brok is part of an EU observatory mission in Zimbabwe which, in a summary, said that while the poll was largely peaceful, use of state resources and delays by the electoral commission to relay presidential results could affect the credibility of the vote.

The damning assessment by the EU, which was observing an election in the country for the first time since 2002, also questioned whether Zimbabwe can “earn the trust” of the international community.

Separately, the EU has now called for calm in Zimbabwe, where three people were killed in clashes following this week’s presidential election.

“Following the shootings and violence that claimed the lives of several people, we appeal for calm and restraint on all sides and for protests to be conducted according to the law,” the European Union’s foreign service (EEAS) said. 

The EEAS said that, while the elections were competitive and political freedoms were respected during the campaign, EU observers had pointed out a lack of a “truly level playing field.”

The result has left the country in some turmoil with Zimbabwe’s opposition leader dismissing the victory of President Emmerson Mnangagwa as being based on “unverified fake results”.

The veteran Zanu-PF politician took office after Mugabe, 94, was forced to resign in November amid a military takeover. Mnangagwa avoided a run-off by just 36,464 votes out of more than 4.8 million cast. 

Overall, official results show he took 50.8 per cent of the vote to Chamisa’s 44.3 per cent. The 21 other candidates took up the remainder

President Mnangagwa, thought to be 75 years old, took to Twitter to say he was humbled to have won the election.

“Though we may have been divided at the polls, we are united in our dreams. This is a new beginning,” he added.

Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance vowed to launch a legal challenge, saying the vote was rigged. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which announced the results, said there was “no skulduggery” involved in the vote tally.

Meanwhile, Brok has acknowledged the “improved political climate, inclusive participation rights and a peaceful vote.”

But, in a statement, he said the election was also marked by an “un-level playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the pre-election environment.”

This was how Brok, the EU EOM’s (European Union Election Observation Mission) chief observer, characterised the electoral process.

“These elections were seen as a critical test of Zimbabwe’s reform process. In some senses, up to this point, the conduct of the polls has had a number of positive features, but in other senses serious concerns remain. Now we hope for a transparent results process,” said Brok.

The German MEP highlighted the “positive” election campaign, during which political freedoms, he said, were respected. He also highlighted the “peaceful and enthusiastic” participation of Zimbabweans on election day as they exercised their right to vote.

But he expressed strong concerns regarding some of the pre-electoral practices, such as what he called intimidation of voters, ZEC’s lack of transparency in preparations, media bias and some problems around polling stations on election day.

Brok, who has previously chaired Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said, “For Zimbabwe to embrace democracy and move on from the past, such practices must stop.”

He stressed, “It is imperative that the results process is credible and transparent, with a full breakdown by polling station so that confidence in the outcome can be assured. It is also imperative for all parties to await the final result and to remain peaceful throughout. The process must be credible and transparent, then whoever wins this election, Zimbabwe can move on, and the people of Zimbabwe can be the real winners.”

Further reaction has come from the head of the delegation from the European Parliament, Manuel Neuser, who said, “These elections are a crucial step - but only a step - in Zimbabwe’s reform process. Elections are not an end in themselves, but an important part of a process of change. People have high hopes for the future and, regardless of who wins, it is the duty of political leaders to work to improve the lives of all citizens.”

The EU EOM has been present in Zimbabwe since 6 June, with a deployment of a core team in Harare and 44 long-term observers in all of the provinces of the country. On the day of the election the EU had some 140 observers, from all 28 member states, as well as Canada, Norway and Switzerland.

The EU Election Observation Mission also included a seven-person delegation from the European Parliament as well as diplomats of EU member states accredited to Zimbabwe. The EU, in a statement, said it will follow any legal disputes which may arise. A final report will be presented in about two months.


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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