The Commonwealth Observer Group has released its final report for the 2018 harmonised elections. The Group which was led by former president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama said that despite several positive aspects from the election, the group was unable to endorse all aspects of the process as credible, inclusive and peaceful.
The group said that there was an unlevel playing field which was caused in part by the acute bias of the state media in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party, abuse of incumbency privileges, allegations of intimidation and the failure by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to fully implement its mandate. In a statement announcing the release of the report, the Commonwealth said,
The Observer Group was led by John Dramani Mahama, former President of Ghana, and included 23 eminent persons. A nine-person staff team from the Commonwealth supported it.
The Report highlights several positive aspects of the election, including a markedly improved pre-election environment where all parties were generally able to campaign freely; peaceful, well managed and transparent polls on Election Day; and the participation of women as presidential candidates, polling officials, and voters.
However, the Group expressed concern about a number of technical and political shortcomings, which, in its view, unlevelled the playing field. These issues included the acute bias of state media in favour of the governing party; the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s limitations in the implementation of its mandate; persistent allegations of intimidation; and the unfair use of incumbency privileges. The Group further singled out the post-election violence, which resulted in fatalities, noting that it marred the final phase of the elections.
Because of these shortcomings, the Group concluded that it was unable to endorse all aspects of the process as credible, inclusive and peaceful.
The report from the Commonwealth Observer Group seems to reflect the views of the reports released by the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) and the joint election observer mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) from the United States of America.