This election season in Zimbabwe is quite different from previous ones. There is minimal election violence. But most notable – the absence of the two candidates, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, who had become permanent names on the ballot paper.
Mugabe was forced out of office by the army last year and Tsvangirai succumbed to cancer early this year.
Another difference: this year, international monitors are welcome to observe the July 30th vote. They last observed an election in Zimbabwe in 2002.
Elmar Brok, the head of the European Union Election Observer Mission, says the team for this election is extensive.
“Over the past weeks, our observers have been meeting a broad range of stakeholders, including the electoral commission, political parties, candidate, civil society and observers. For the election period itself it will have 140 observers in total covering the voting and counting all over the country.
The team includes members of the E.U parliament. He adds that observers will remain in the field to monitor the process of declaring results and any post-election legal disputes.
Brok says the mission will remain behind if there is an election re-run.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), compiled a new biometric voters roll to be used in the coming elections. Brok says that is a welcome development but notes problems remain with the voters register.
“This has been a major effort by ZEC, however, I understand a number of contentious issues related to the roll have been evident including the process of sharing the roll.”
Brok says the mission looks forward to seeing the audits of the roll that non-governmental organizations are doing.
His comments come just days after the leading opposition presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, raised concerns over the government’s unwillingness to let stakeholders observe the printing of the ballot paper.
Mark Stevens is the deputy chief observer of the EU mission and has observed hundreds of elections in the past.
“Issues such as observation of printing of ballot paper, observation of the storage of ballot papers comes up in quite a lot of elections. Some countries provide for it some countries don’t. What we have discovered in different places is when such access is provided it can enhance confidence and it can enhance transparency and credibility, which is why we are fully in favor of it.”
The Europe Union Observer Mission says it will announce its preliminary findings about two days after election day