Africa observes endorse elections; EU mission notes flaws despite peace

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By Associated Press

THE European Union (EU) observer mission says “a truly level playing field was not achieved” in Zimbabwe’s election as the country awaits the results of the presidential vote.

The EU mission points 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.

The 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 says this is a preliminary statement and more is expected on how the election results are handled and announced.

Meanwhile, election observers from southern African nations have commended Zimbabwe for a peaceful, orderly election, though they also identified some shortcomings in how it was conducted.

The Southern African Development Community says Zimbabweans had the “opportunity to exercise their constitutional right,” and applauds the government for allowing more international observers for Monday’s vote.

Manuel Domingos Augusto, the Angolan foreign minister and SADC representative, calls the elections “a political watershed in Zimbabwe’s history, as they may open a new chapter leading towards socioeconomic recovery and consolidation of democracy.”

Augusto says efforts should be made to allow the millions in Zimbabwe’s diaspora, barred from voting abroad, to vote in future elections.

He also refers to criticism of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for the late release of the voters’ roll, as well as bias toward the ruling party by state media and traditional leaders.

He urges anyone with grievances to refrain from violence.