Yesterday, 26 March 2022, Zimbabweans across 28 constituencies and 122 local authorities went to the polls to cast their votes for the long delayed parliamentary and local authority by-elections. The indefinite delay was reasoned on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic and upheld under Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 (SI 2020-225A) and (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020, No 4). Ordinarily, and in line with Section 158(3) of the Constitution and Sections 39 and 121 of the Electoral Act, by-elections to fill in vacancies are held within 90 days of the vacancy having arisen. For these by-elections, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) deployed more than 400 trained and accredited election day observers including deploying 206 observers to six priority constituencies; Binga North, Chivi South, Epworth, Kwekwe Central, Murewa South, and Mutasa South where Sample-Based Observations (SBOs) were conducted using a statistically representative sample of polling stations. Given the timing, it was not possible to conduct SBOs for all 28 by-elections. These six constituencies were selected to provide geographic spread and to reflect the political diversity of the country.
This statement on the conduct of the elections is based on ERC and ZESN’s direct observation of the processes of voting, counting and posting of results for those six constituencies and follows ERC and ZESN’s situational statements on the opening and set-up of polling stations released 25 March 2022. The political environment during the pre-election period was marred by political violence resulting in the loss of life for a CCC supporter in Mbizo, Kwekwe District, and election- related intimidation. ERC and ZESN unreservedly condemn any form of violence and the attempt to limit electoral competition through the restriction of campaign activities. Political rights are protected in Section 67 of the Constitution and all stakeholders are enjoined to always promote the Constitution. The ERC and ZESN noted activities that qualify as vote buying during the campaign period which included the use of food to sway voters. Voter information and education associated with the voter registration process has not been comprehensive enough ahead of the by- elections. This shortcoming in public engagement, when viewed alongside the administration of the two different voters’ rolls in constituencies where there are concurrent elections for the National Assembly and Ward by-elections, has resulted in confusion amongst voters in the affected areas. Stakeholders have also expressed concern over the quality and integrity of the voters’ roll, which was further compounded by the delay by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) in sharing the official voters’ roll for analysis.
Overall, ERC and ZESN observers reported that the election day was peaceful and generally well administered, but with concerns about community coercion in rural areas undermining the right to vote. Of the six constituencies observed, so far results have been announced for Epworth, Murewa South and Mutasa South. The results for Binga North, Epworth, Kwekwe and Murewa South reflect the ballots cast, however, it is not possible to verify the results for Mutasa South as community coercion and a close election undermine the credibility of the election and legitimacy of the outcome.
ERC and ZESN will verify the results for Chivi South when it has been announced. ERC and ZESN are still processing the data received from its additional stationary and mobile observers and will provide the findings from all the complementary observation methodologies in a forthcoming comprehensive report.
Read the full statement here (288KB PDF)
Source: Election Resource Centre