African Union (AU) observer mission team leader Olusegun Obasanjo calls it “minor incidents” but his team, in a statement, has slammed “several shortcomings” in the running of the Zimbabwean elections.
Obasanjo told a group of journalists in Harare today that “there were minor incidents … not such that could be regarded (as putting) the election in jeopardy. There were challenges, but they were not challenges that we would regard as so bad (they) would flaw the election absolutely terribly.”
He said he had never seen an election that was perfect.
Yesterday, Obasanjo paid Mugabe a surprise visit at his official residence and told journalists there the election was free and fair, a statement he initially voiced on election day.
But his team has released a statement that lambasts election officials for “several shortcomings”, including failing to make the voters’ roll available timeously to all political parties.
Addressing a press conference at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare, the team faulted the election process for, among others:
» The electoral commission’s printing of too many extra ballot papers – there were 35% more ballot papers than registered voters. Six million people were registered to vote but about 8.7 million ballot papers were printed;
» A high incidence of voters being turned away. At a polling station in Matabeleland South, 85 voters were turned away. Polling officers told observers voters could not be found on the voters’ roll and that others reported to the wrong polling stations;
» The late publication of the list of polling stations, only about 48 hours before the country went to the polls. This, said the AU, could have contributed significantly to the high number of voters who were turned away or referred to other polling stations or to the command centre;
» A high number of voters were assisted. At the Musengizi polling station, 90 out of 370 voters were assisted. At Kapembere Primary School, 77 out of 374 voters were assisted. At Bore Primary School, 85 voters out of 374 voters were assisted and, in Manicaland, about 97 out of 370 voters were assisted.
“While the current electoral laws provide for assistance by presiding officers, electoral officers and police officers, the involvement of such officers may influence or restrict the free will of the voter,” said the AU in a statement; and
» The media in Zimbabwe was highly polarised along party lines and biased. The AU criticised the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for not providing a platform to opposition parties.
Deputy head of the AU observer mission Dr Aisha Abdullahi laid into the registrar-general of voters (RGV) for providing the voters’ roll two days before election, “rather late for the meaningful inspection and verification by voters, parties and candidates to take place”.
The RGV had told observers that copies of the voters’ roll had been made available to all parties. But Abdullahi said “observers had found no evidence that hard copies were generally available to all who required them and who, by law, should have them”.
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