EU warns Mnangagwa over electoral reforms failure, fears post 2023 election violence

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By Anna Chibamu

A EUROPEAN Union (EU) follow-up mission has expressed concern over government’s continued failure to effect key electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 elections, raising fears post election violence could recur after the watershed elections.

Head of delegation, Elmar Brok, told journalists at a press conference in Harare that authorities’ hesitance in implementing electoral reforms was a cause of concern.

There are fears that horror events witnessed after the 2018 elections when the military shot dead innocent civilians in Harare might be repeated.

Brok warned the second republic that, if not addressed, the issues and results of the previous election might cause the public to lose trust completely.

“If the authorities and the legislators do not address recurring problems related to voter registration, constituency delimitation, level playing field in the campaign, partisan behaviour of traditional leaders and public administration, freedoms of expression, assembly and of the media, they will undermine progress towards achieving an environment conducive to a greater level public trust in the electoral process and peaceful elections,” said Brok.

“We are concerned that if the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill is adopted, it will severely impact the freedom of association and restrict legitimate activities of civil society organisations.

“We urge authorities and the legislature to reconsider, keeping in mind Zimbabwe’s international commitment.

“We heard, also, concerns from part of the opposition and civil society that amendments to the Criminal law might be introduced, which endanger the freedom of expression,” noted Brok.

“To date, progress on the implementation of the EU Election Observation Mission EU (EOM) recommendations has been limited, with the majority of the priority ones not yet adequately addressed.”

Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections were marred by post election violence after protests broke out outside the national collating centre in Harare.

Citizens demanded that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) releases presidential election results, arguing delays experienced were as a result of attempts to rig them in favour of eventual winner, President Robert Mugabe, and Zanu PF.

Brok said although some legal reforms had taken place, there were concerns the adoption of important reforms such as amendments to the Electoral Act remain outstanding.

The EU encouraged political parties and the civil society to engage in good faith and deliberate to amend the electoral legislation in advance of the 2023 elections.

Brok said this will avoid uncertainty and allow sufficient time for implementation and voter education.

“The government and Parliament carry special responsibilities here. The goal must be free, transparent, credible and impartial elections,” he added.

Brok, who is a former member of the European Parliament and Chief Observer of the EU EOM of the 2018 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe, however, failed to meet parliamentarians and left Zimbabwe Friday night.