EU observers red flag Zim vote; cite misuse of state resources, media bias

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By Staff Reporter

The European Union (EU) observer mission has said “a truly level playing field was not achieved” in Zimbabwe’s just-ended election as the country awaits the results of the presidential vote.

The EU mission pointed out the “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media” but says Monday’s election was largely peaceful in a break from the past.

Assessments of Western and other observers, many who returned to Zimbabwe after being barred for nearly two decades, are crucial in the possible lifting of international sanctions on this southern African nation.

The EU mission’s preliminary statement, which was presented by chief observer Elmar Brok – a member of the European Parliament – was released Wednesday before the deadly violence which rocked the capital in the afternoon.

“Observers widely reported on efforts to undermine the free expression of the will of electors, through inducements, pressure and coercion against prospective voters to try to ensure a vote in favour of the ruling party,” said Brok.

“Such practices also included direct threats of violence, pressure on people to attend rallies, partisan actions by traditional leaders, collection of voter registration slips and other measures to undermine confidence in the secrecy of the vote, manipulation of food aid and agricultural programmes and other misuses of state resources.”

The EU chief observer added that, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) failed to abide by its legal obligation to ensure equitable and fair treatment to all political parties and candidates.

“State-owned TV, radio and newspapers, which dominate the media landscape, were heavily biased in favour of the ruling party and incumbent president in their election-related coverage,” he said.

“Media operated in a generally free environment during the campaign and freedom of expression was respected.

“The legal framework for media, while providing for fundamental rights, needs further improvement to bring it into line with the Constitution.”