The European Union observer mission today said although the just ended Zimbabwe elections were competitive there was no level playing field as resources were titled in favour of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
“The elections were competitive, the campaign was largely peaceful and, overall, political freedoms during the campaign, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech, were respected,” the mission said.
“However, the misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media, all in favour of the ruling party, meant that a truly level playing field was not achieved, which negatively impacted on the democratic character of the electoral environment.”
Zimbabwe invited international observers, including those from the EU, after an absence of 16 years in the hope that their blessing will open doors to the international community.
“The campaign was largely peaceful, with freedoms of movement, assembly and expression respected, and both the main presidential candidates held numerous rallies across the country,” the EU mission said.
“However, while political rights were largely respected, there were concerns regarding the environment for the polls and the failure to achieve a level playing field.
“Observers widely reported on efforts to undermine the free expression of the will of electors, through inducements, pressure and coercion against prospective voters to try to ensure a vote in favour of the ruling party.
“Such practices also included direct threats of violence, pressure on people to attend rallies, partisan actions by traditional leaders, collection of voter registration slips and other measures to undermine confidence in the secrecy of the vote, manipulation of food aid and agricultural programmes and other misuses of state resources.”
ZANU-PF has already won the majority in Parliament though results are still being announced.
Tensions are rising over the presidential vote, so the EU has urged greater transparency when they are released.
“It is important that the final results are shared in a manner which provides for full transparency and accountability, including a breakdown by polling station,” the mission said.