The European Union Election Observation Mission to Zimbabwe has implored stakeholders to put great efforts in ensuring public and political confidence in the forthcoming elections which are a key determinant for the country’s future.

Head of the mission Mr Elmar Brok said the 2018 elections are a critical test of Zimbabwe’s reform process and inclusivity of all concerned in electoral processes will definitely enhance credibility. 

The EU Election Observation Mission to Zimbabwe held its first media briefing in Harare today where they outlined how they are going to operate. 

Mr Brok said efforts that include transparency and inclusivity, confidence in the integrity of the voters roll, emphasis on the secrecy of the vote and the peaceful conduct of the polls are all important aspects of the process.

“The presence of the EU Election Observation Mission demonstrates the EU’s commitment to the conduct of peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible elections in Zimbabwe. The EU wishes to accompany Zimbabwe in its transition to satisfy the legitimate expectations of the Zimbabwean people and stands ready to engage further if the appropriate conditions are met. Elections are in this regard, an essential step in a long and challenging reform process,” he said.

Responding to queries on demands being made by opposition parties with regards the design, printing and storage of the ballot papers, Deputy Head of the EU Mission, Mr Mark Stevens said other countries involve all the contesting parties because inclusivity enhances credibility while other countries do not have laws that bind them to do that.

The mission said the authorities should avoid eyebrow raising actions like enlisting the army to assist the electoral management body with transport as such conduct is prone to raise suspicion from other parties.

The mission commended the peace that is prevailing in the country and the pronouncement by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces that they will adhere to the dictates of the constitution after the polls.

The observation mission also expressed optimism the presence of international, regional and local observers will support the conduct of credible elections.

A group of 44 short term observers is expected to reinforce the mission before election day and they will be joined by a seven member delegation from the European parliament, diplomats from EU member states and partner countries.

If a second round of voting is required, the mission will remain in Zimbabwe for the run off.

The EU Election Observation Mission conducts a comprehensive and impartial analysis of the whole electoral process which  includes assessing the legal framework, the performance of the election administration, voter registration, candidates’ nomination, campaign activities, respect for fundamental freedoms, access to and conduct of the media, voting and the counting and transmission of results, and the period after the polls.

Mr Brok also added that the mission is bound by a code of conduct, which requires strict neutrality and no interference in the process and to that end the mission undertakes all its work in accordance with the declaration of principles for international election observation and cooperates closely with national and other international observers. 

The chief observer further explained that the EU Election Observation Mission will publish its initial findings in a preliminary statement, which will be presented about two days after election day and a final report will be published within two months.