Several observer missions to Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonised elections have given thumbs up to the polls and made some recommendations on how the country can improve the process in the future.

The observer missions, led by the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), SADC Parliamentary Forum, the African Union Observation Mission and COMESA, among others, gave their preliminary reports in Harare this mid-morning.

The missions concurred that the elections met their guidelines although there are areas that need improvement, urging Zimbabweans to move forward in peace and unity.

“The 2018 elections in Zimbabwe marked an important moment for political transition,” AU Observation Mission Head, Mr Haile Mariam Dessalegn.

He noted the high turnout on polling day, the peace before, during and after the elections and the good conduct of ZEC officials, police officers and the general populace during the polls, adding that the mission will remain in Zimbabwe for some time to monitor the post election environment.

SEOM said the elections were held in accordance with the constitution of Zimbabwe, and commended Zimbabweans for conducting themselves in a peaceful way before and during the elections.

“The environment in all polling stations observed was peaceful and the polling stations opened and closed on time. In all polling stations observed, vote counting was done in the presence of all political agents, and the V11 forms were duly completed and signed by party agents……Police conduct was highly professional during elections……There were many positive changes noted as compared to 2013 elections,” the SEOM representative said.

The SEOM however noted confusion among stakeholders during the postal voting, but concluded that the polls were a great improvement towards electoral transparency and electoral building process.

Among the recommendations from SEOM was that the government expedites the alignment of the remaining provisions of the Electoral Act to the constitution and for ZEC to avail to stakeholders the voters roll in time.

COMESA commended the establishment of the Multi-Party Liaison Committee to give a platform for political parties engagement.

It also hailed the Code of Conduct signed by political parties prior to the pools, saying it is an essential element to elections.

COMESA however urged Zimbabwe to allow for the diaspora vote in accordance with the constitution of Zimbabwe.

The SADC Parliamentary Forum noted the democratic build up to the elections but said media coverage was characterised by polarisation and bias.

The mission commended efforts made by ZEC on voter education, and urged the commission to in the future increase voter efficiency by reducing the number of people per polling station, and print ballot papers in colour.

ZEC was also advised to consider adopting a better communication strategy to enhance inclusivity and minimise disagreements.

Overally, all the missions concurred that the presence of many candidates and the high turnout of voters at polling stations were a sign of the opening of the democratic space in the country.

ZEC was also commended for using technology especially the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR), which reduced the possibility of multiple voting, and using mobile communication.

All the missions stressed the need for political stakeholders and Zimbabweans in general to shun violence and seek redress from courts for dispute resolution.