The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) monitored and assessed the 2018 harmonized elections held on the 30th of July 2018. The primary objective was to ensure that the elections were conducted freely and fairly in accordance with national legal frameworks, and regional and international instruments that advance the observance and respect for human rights and freedoms of all citizens.
This report reflects the Commission’s findings on how citizens enjoyed and exercised their right to free, fair and regular elections and other civil and political rights enshrined in the Constitution. The report provides an analysis of the policy and legal framework relating to the electoral process, electoral environment, funding of the elections, voter registration, voter education, political party activities, media coverage and any incidents of electoral malpractices. Furthermore, the monitoring missions conducted by the ZHRC assessed the involvement of vulnerable and special interest groups (women, children, youth, elderly and persons with disabilities in the electoral process.
In comparison with previous elections, the 2018 harmonised elections reflected an increase in the creation and participation of political parties, with 133 political parties, and 23 aspiring Presidential candidates participating in the process. These developments gave hope to Zimbabweans as they believed that it was an indication of the opening up of democratic spaces for the ordinary citizen. The 2018 elections brought about some improvements compared to past elections in the form of Biometric Voter Registration (which updated the Voters’ Roll), access to media coverage by political players, in both print and electronic media and most importantly the maintenance of peace across the country in the run up to and during the elections.
In as much as the Commission appreciated that the electoral environment up to election time was generally peaceful, it was however concerned by the rise in complaints it received, predominantly relating to voter intimidation and vote buying disguised as distribution of food aid and Presidential Farming Inputs. These incidents instilled fear in the electorate and risked the manipulation of the secrecy of the ballot, thus, infringing the citizens’ freedom to select candidates of their choice. Moreover, the post-election violence which occurred on 1 August 2018, and other politically motivated violent incidents which were reported to the Commission days after announcement of the election results, negatively impacted on the calm and peaceful atmosphere which prevailed before and during the elections.
Therefore, this report lists numerous recommendations to various stakeholders in order to address gaps witnessed by the ZHRC during the whole electoral process. The Commission urges stakeholders to implement these recommendations which require certain actions to be taken in order to ensure that the country’s future elections are free, fair and credible.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC)