EU says level playing field a key focus as it launches Zimbabwe observer mission

EU says level playing field a key focus as it launches Zimbabwe observer mission

The European Union says a “level playing field” will be a key focus area of its election observer mission, which has now begun its work ahead of August polls.

The EU’s Chief Observer Fabio Massimo Castaldo pledged that his observers would be “impartial” and not interfere in the process.  

“We will observe and analyse elections, and our tested methodology ensures that there won’t be any interference in the process by our side,” Castaldo said yesterday.

In a statement, the EU observer mission said its mandate was to conduct “an independent, impartial and comprehensive analysis” of the election process.

“EU observers will also focus on the level playing field for contesting candidates and parties, the electoral administration, the campaign environment, the conduct of traditional and social media, voting, counting and the tabulation of results. We will remain in the country well beyond election day to observe the post-electoral environment”, said Castaldo.

A core team of 11 analysts started work in Zimbabwe on 8 July. A group of 46 long-term observers and 44 short-term observers joins the mission. On election day, the mission will have over 150 observers. 

The main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change says at least 92 of its rallies have been banned by police, and that its candidates and supporters continue to be harassed by ZANU-PF activists, arrested while campaigning, and being denied access to public media.

But police blame parties for violating laws governing public gatherings, such as the requirement to provide five days’ notice and to submit names of convenors. ZRP spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi has claimed that, since January, police had received 1 730 applications for political gatherings. Of these, police barred 84 ZANU-PF gatherings and 59 from opposition.

This is only the second time that the EU is observing Zimbabwe’s elections in over 20 years. In 2002, Zimbabwe expelled the head of the bloc’s electoral mission ahead of that year’s presidential election. Soon after that incident, the EU cut 128m Euros in aid and imposed sanctions, which have progressively been pulled back.

In its report on the 2018 election, the EU said there had been an “improved climate” compared to previous campaigns, but that voter intimidation and a lack of confidence in the electoral process had undermined the poll.

In 2022, the EU said there had been “slow and limited progress in the implementation of the recommendations” that it had made after observing the 2018 election.

In November last year, the EU announced about €6 million in funding to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to “enhance the institutional and technical capacity” of the elections body.-NewZWire



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