After a two-year suspension of electoral activities, Zimbabwe finally held by-elections which were outstanding from April 2020. On 26 May 2022, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) conducted 28 national assembly and 122 local authority elections. On election day CIASA used a mixed-method approach to observe the polling processes. The CIASA observer mission was guided by the country’s constitution, electoral law as well as regional and international benchmarks for the conduct of free and fair elections in assessing the credibility of these by elections. The CIASA observers were accredited by the electoral commission. CIASA focused its observation in three (3) constituencies Mwenezi East, Chivi South and Dangamvura-Chikanga together with the 4 wards in Masvingo Urban that is wards 3, 4, 5 and 7. Below is a summary of preliminary observations made by CIASA;
Polling station set-up and opening processes
- The CIASA observer team noted that all polling stations it deployed observers opened at 07.00 am as stipulated in the electoral regulations. The observers further noted that all citizen observers were allowed access to polling stations and managed to observe all stages of the election day.
- CIASA observers did not witness any cases of campaigns within the prescribed 300-meter radius from a polling station.
- No major cases of violence were recorded except in Chivi South where at around 10 am on election day
- At all polling stations visited by CIASA observers’ materials were available and in sufficient quantities.
- In isolated cases observers reported cases of resistance by some Presiding officers in revealing serial numbers of ballot papers upon request by some observers. This was recorded in Chivi South, at Ngundu Catholic polling stations.
- CIASA observed that all ballot boxes and all materials were clearly labelled and comprehensively instructive to the voters.
- Names of voters were also displayed outside polling stations for easy access but in some instances some voters names were missing, however some voters resorted to verify their names on mobile platform using code the *265#.
- At all polling stations observed all poling officials were present and they were generally receptive to voters and conducted themselves in a professional manner.
- Some polling stations, especially at schools in ward 7 Masvingo Urban such as Shakashe A and B polling stations, Ward 4 Masvingo Urban Runyararo A and B polling stations were not accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Elections agents from all participating parties were available but there were isolated cases where agents from CCC arrived late after voting had commenced as in the case of Ndarama polling station Ward 5 in Masvingo.
- All voters before casting their votes were checked for ink on the prescribed left little finger on whether they have voted before and this is happening in the full glare of observers and agents.
- CIASA observed cases of voters being turned away for varying reasons including nonappearance in voters roll, attempts to use drivers licences and expired passports to vote.
- Observers noted cases of redirected voters who would have visited wrong polling sites. Such voters indicated lack of awareness.
- CIASA observed that those requiring assistance to vote received adequate support as required by the electoral law
- A significantly low number of voters turned up at most polling stations bringing fears of a low voter turnout.
Close of poll and counting
- Overall, at most polling stations counting was done in a transparent and accurate manner, however CIASA noted limited instances where party agents refused to sign on V11 forms.
- CIASA noted significant delays in the collation, counting and announcement of results, this was attributed to notable mistakes in capturing the V11 forms by the presiding officers.
- Intensive civic and voter education must be extended to both election officials and the general public.
- There is need to raise awareness on the usage of the voters roll and there is need to encourage usage of the virtual platform.
- There is need to raise awareness among PWDs to participate in all levels of development particularly political events like the by-elections.