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2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles
report on the Presidential Election in Zimbabwe March 9 - 11, 2002
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March 2002 Presidential elections took place against the backdrop
of widespread Commonwealth and international interest in and concern
about the situation in Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth has had close
and special ties with Zimbabwe over the years. The association was
closely involved in the process leading to Zimbabwe’s independence
in 1980 and it was in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, in 1991, that
Commonwealth Heads of Government codified the fundamental political
values of the association in a landmark document known as the Harare
Commonwealth Declaration. Since then the Commonwealth has continued
to assist in the strengthening of democracy and in the development
of the country.
Observer Group (COG) was present in Zimbabwe for the Parliamentary
elections on 24-26 June 2000. The Commonwealth has also been working
closely with other international partners, including the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), in addressing the land issue and related matters
Our Group was
constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General following an invitation
from the Government of Zimbabwe. An advance staff team, which visited
Zimbabwe from 5 to 10 February, found that the main political parties
and civil society groups were agreeable to the presence of Commonwealth
observers. The team were also assured by the election management
authorities that Commonwealth observers would be able to travel
freely to all parts of the country and to talk to whomever they
wished, subject to a Code of Conduct for international and domestic
Group and its Terms of Reference
was the 37th observer Group constituted by the Commonwealth
Secretary-General since Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed
at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in October 1989 that member
states could benefit from an election observer facility, as a means
of strengthening democratic processes and institutions. The context
for our presence at the Presidential elections in Zimbabwe was set
by the principles enshrined in the 1991 Harare Commonwealth Declaration,
which include "democracy, human rights, the rule of law and
just and honest government".
The Terms of
Reference for our Group were incorporated in the Secretary-General’s
letter inviting each of us to participate in the mission in our
individual capacity. They are as follows:
Group is established by the Commonwealth Secretary-General at
the invitation of the Government of Zimbabwe. It is to observe
relevant aspects of the organisation and conduct of the Presidential
Election in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe. It is to consider
the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral
process as a whole and to determine in its own judgement whether
the conditions exist for a free expression of will by the electors
and if the results of the election reflect the wishes of the
people of Zimbabwe.
is to act impartially and independently. It has no executive
role; its function is not to supervise but to observe the process
as a whole and to form a judgement accordingly. It would also
be free to propose to the authorities concerned such action
on institutional, procedural and other matters as would assist
the holding of such elections.
is to submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General,
who will forward it to the Government of Zimbabwe, the leadership
of the political parties taking part in the election and thereafter
to all Commonwealth governments".
Within the above
terms of reference the Group would form an independent judgement,
which would in no way represent either the views of any government,
or the Office of the Secretary-General.
The Group was
led by General Abdusalami Abubakar, former Head of State of Nigeria,
and comprised 42 eminent nationals of Commonwealth member states.
The Group was supported by a 19-member Commonwealth Secretariat
team led by Mr Jon Sheppard, Director of the Secretariat’s Political
Affairs Division. For the first time the Group included representatives
of Commonwealth youth organisations.
Method of Work
a formal invitation on 4 February 2002 from the Government of Zimbabwe
to the Commonwealth Secretary-General for the presence of Commonwealth
observers, a five strong team of staff from the Commonwealth Secretariat
arrived in Harare on 5-6 February to make arrangements for the arrival
of the Observers. In the week up to Sunday 10 February the staff
team, led by Jon Sheppard, met the Registrar-General, the Electoral
Supervisory Commission, the main parties and a number of NGOs and
diplomats. Four of the five staff were accredited as observers on
Thursday 7 February and spent some time observing preparations for
the elections and the campaign in Harare and rural areas.
Observers’ arrived in Zimbabwe on Friday 8 February and a further
three arrived on Monday 11 February. Supported by Commonwealth Secretariat
staff, they deployed in four of the country’s nine provinces, including
the capital, Harare, where they met with the political parties and
civil society groups and also observed the election campaigns.
full complement of observers arrived in Zimbabwe on 22-23 February
and was briefed on the terms of our mission by the Chairperson and
the Secretariat team leader. Our Chairperson had himself been briefed
in London by the Commonwealth Secretary-General earlier in the month.
We held a press conference in Harare on 24 February, at which we
issued an Arrival Statement.
Over the next
few days we were engaged in a series of meetings with the Registrar-General,
the Chief Elections Officer, the Electoral Supervisory Commission,
Commonwealth High Commissioners, senior representatives of political
parties contesting the elections, representatives of the Zimbabwe
Elections Support Network, civil society, media organisations, war
veterans and commercial farmers.
27 February we divided into 23 two-person teams and deployed to
all 10 provinces of the country. 7 other teams were added in the
week prior to the poll. The Chairperson, the Secretariat team leader
and 4 other teams were based in Harare. On 2 March the Chairperson
and some members of the Group were invited to pay a courtesy call
on President Mugabe. The Chairperson also made visits to a number
of provinces to assess first hand the state of electoral preparedness
in those areas and the political climate in the run-up to the elections.
On these visits he met officials, members of the public, representatives
of political parties, civil society representatives and also victims
of politically motivated violence.
A meeting was
arranged with the Registrar-General to seek clarification on issues
of voter registration, citizenship, postal voting and other related
matters. The Chairman also wrote to the Chairman of the Electoral
Supervisory Commission and the Registrar-General drawing attention
to the need for action to deal with the large numbers of voters
at polling stations on Saturday 9 March. On Tuesday 12 March the
Chairman of our Group called on the Registrar-General in pursuit
of these concerns and to discuss progress in the verification and
counting of votes.
our teams covered both urban and rural areas. We travelled extensively
to familiarise ourselves with our deployment areas, to assess preparedness
for the elections and to observe the last days of the campaign.
We met local electoral officials, representatives of political parties
and independent candidates, local community leaders and observers,
representatives of the security forces and other international observers.
We attended party rallies and meetings, and observed the training
of presiding and polling officers as well as that of monitors. We
also observed final preparations for the elections.
Each team submitted
regular reports of their observation to the Chairperson. Between
9 and 11 March we observed voting at approximately 700 polling stations
and on 12 March were present for the count at 15 constituency counting
centres. During our deployment we were assisted by observation notes
and checklists prepared by the Secretariat. Our Group reassembled
in Harare on 12/13 March for debriefing, having maintained a continuous
presence in Zimbabwe for over a month.
On 14 March,
we issued a Preliminary Report containing our initial assessment
of the electoral process. This Report was forwarded to the Commonwealth
Secretary-General and released to the public.
For the report
in full, please use one of the downloads listed at the top
of this page
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