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  • 2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles

  • Final report on the Presidential Election in Zimbabwe 2002
    Norway Election Observer Mission
    March 20, 2002

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    Executive Summary
    The Norwegian Government was invited by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe to send observers to the Presidential Elections 2002. Norwegian observers were deployed in the country from 12 February, with most observers arriving on 25 February to 17 March.

    The Observer Mission regrets that the conditions for a much broader observation of the elections were not in place.

    The Observer Mission concludes that the Presidential Elections failed to meet key, broadly accepted criteria for elections.

    The Presidential Elections in Zimbabwe in March 2002 were conducted in an environment of strong polarisation, political violence and an election administration with severe shortcomings. Despite that, voters on election days turned out to vote in large numbers, showing an extraordinary sense of civic duty.

    The run-up to the election was marred by a pattern of intimidation and violence. Even though incidents have been reported from both sides, the evidence shows clearly that in the vast majority of cases the ruling party has been to blame. Numerous reports of harassment and assault of opposition officials, members and supporters and their homes have been documented by observers. Opposition offices have also been attacked in several places.

    Reporting in the state media, which should have a particular duty to be politically unbiased, has shown a blatant bias for the ruling party, with little or no coverage of the opposition except to portray it negatively.

    The Public Order and Security Act has been used to obstruct regular political activities involving the opposition. Meetings have been interrupted, party representatives have been taken in for questioning during deployment to their polling stations, party offices have been raided, and opposition officials and supporters have been detained on spurious charges.

    On election days, the capacity of polling stations in Harare was wholly inadequate. Despite advance warnings, the Registrar General decided to carry out elections with as many as 5,300 voters per polling station on average in Harare and Chitungwiza. In all other provinces, excepting Bulawayo, the number was around 1,000 per polling station.

    On the first election day voters in Harare and Chitungwiza turned out in extremely high numbers. In the morning of the first day of polls up to 4,000 voters had queued up to vote. After three days of voting only 2,000 to 3,500 voters per polling station had been able to cast their votes. Despite a clear requirement in the Electoral Act to allow all voters in line at the close of the polls to vote, the Registrar General decided to close all polling stations at around 10 pm on day two and at 7 pm on the extended third day of voting. The thousands of voters still in line both days were sent away by the police. Many of the voters who were turned away had been waiting for ten to twenty hours in vain. Inexplicably, the polling did not start until 11 am on the third day, despite polling material and staff being present from the morning onwards at all polling stations visited by our teams. The irregular closure of the polling stations on the second and third days together with the late opening on the third day removed the last chance to offer all voters a fair chance to cast their vote within a reasonable time.

    In the areas outside of Harare the voting was carried out in an efficient manner. However, a number of incidents of intimidation were reported, including harassment of polling agents and domestic observers, resulting in an atmosphere of fear surrounding the electoral process. Inside the polling stations visited by our observers, the technical part of the process was handled in an orderly manner, and staff at the polling stations showed a high degree of commitment to achieving a correct voting process.

    After the count, one can clearly conclude that the violations were on such a scale that it could have affected the outcome of the elections. That the turnout in some provinces rose drastically compared to previous elections, must at least in part be attributed to the high level of intimidation of voters reported in these areas prior to and during the poll. In Harare where the opposition draws its strongest support, voters were not given a fair chance to cast their ballot.

    In the immediate aftermath of the poll, a number of highly disturbing developments were noted. It quickly emerged that ZANU PF supporters around the country had embarked on systematic reprisals against opposition members or supporters. In particular, opposition polling and election agents were targeted by violent youths and war veterans reportedly using the list of polling agents published in national newspapers before the election. Numerous cases of assault, beating, torture, looting, arson, and at least one killing of a suspected MDC supporter were reported to observers in the first few days after the poll. There were also reports of violent attacks on commercial farmers and farm workers. Given the time constraints, only a few of the reported incidents could be independently verified before the observers' departure, but both the consistency of the reports and the threatening rhetoric used by ZANU PF officials during the party's pre-election house-to-house campaign lend credibility to the claims by the opposition, the independent media and civil society groups of systematic reprisals.

    Police conduct in the immediate wake of the poll also gave cause for alarm. While in a few cases action appears to have been taken against perpetrators of post-election violence, in the majority of reported incidents those carrying out the reprisals have been able to operate with impunity.

    The election administration in Zimbabwe, both the bodies administering the elections and those supervising them, form part of the executive structure, lacking convincing independence and integrity. The contesting parties’ only involvement is via their polling and election agents. Polling agents for the opposition were in a number of instances harassed or intimidated by supporters of the ruling party or the police. Being the vital instrument for keeping the checks and balances in place in the polling stations, this represents a weakening of the trust in the voting process. Despite the reported incidents, the main opposition party seemed to have been able to achieve a fairly good coverage of polling agents in the polling stations around the country.

    Accreditation of domestic observers in substantial numbers could have enhanced transparency and confidence in the voting process. However, the Minister of Justice chose to exclude most of the 12,500 observers organised by the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network from observing the elections, thereby missing the opportunity to prove its commitment to a fully transparent process.

    The voter registration process had serious flaws in that the cut-off dates for making amendments to the registers were changed without prior public announcements. The extension of registration from 27 January to 3 March was only known to the public on 3 March.

    Other vital information about the voting, such as the number and location of polling stations, the number of registered voters per constituency, the number of approved postal voters, and the number of late registrants on supplementary voters rolls were published very late, or not at all. The voters rolls have not been available for purchase by the public as required by law.

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