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Carter Center Releases Final Report On August 2023 Elections


The Carter Center has released the final report from its international election observation mission to the August 2023 elections raising concerns over the integrity and transparency of the polls.

The findings shed light on a restricted political environment, lack of independence in election administration, and various technical shortcomings that marred the electoral process.

According to the Carter Center’s observation mission, the months leading up to the elections saw a crackdown on civil society and political opponents, with legislation targeting reform advocates.

“The Carter Center’s election observation mission found that Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections took place in a restricted political environment and that the administration of the elections lacked independence and transparency in key areas. Parliament did not pass several critically important electoral reforms and instead adopted legislation targeting the country’s vibrant civil society, effectively silencing reform advocates and political opponents in the months leading up to the vote.

“Several critical technical aspects of the process were implemented poorly or opaquely, reducing the transparency and credibility of the elections. While voting day was largely peaceful and well implemented by polling staff, Carter Center observers found delayed openings caused by ballot shortages in several areas, including in some wards considered to be opposition strongholds. Some delays lasted as long as 12 hours, which likely depressed voter turnout,” read part of the report

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The Center said instances of assisted voting in rural areas raised concerns about the secrecy of the ballot, while a government raid on election night shut down nonpartisan citizen observation efforts, further eroding confidence in the process.

“In addition, critical election information, including the final voters’ roll and the list of polling stations, was not readily available to stakeholders. Observers also reported numerous instances of assisted voting in rural areas, raising concerns that the secrecy of the vote may have been compromised. Agents from the two main parties were present in most polling stations and tally centers in which the Center observed, and there was a widespread presence of citizen observers.

“However, Zimbabwean authorities conducted a raid on election night and shut down the nonpartisan citizen observation efforts of two respected civil society groups. The Center urges the government of Zimbabwe to drop all pending charges against the civil society activists and respect their right of political participation,” the Center said

The Carter Center said technical issues with the ZEC’s website limited public access to information, exacerbating doubts about the credibility of the results.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced the Aug. 23 presidential election results on Aug 26. The ZEC reported voter turnout at 68.9% (a 16.1% drop from the 85% turnout reported in the 2018 general election). Incumbent President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa received 2,350,711 votes (52.6%), and the leading opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa, received 1,967.343 votes (44%). The results for the National Assembly first-past-the-post (FPTP) seats and the local authority were announced at the constituency and ward level, respectively.  

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“The ZEC published the results on its webpage; however, technical problems made the site difficult to access and led to limited public access to information in the immediate election period. Overall, the 2023 electoral process did not adequately respect Zimbabwe’s regional and international commitments for democratic and inclusive elections, and substantially undermined candidates’ ability to compete on an equal basis and prevented the genuine expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” said the observer

The report calls for the repeal of ‘repressive’ laws, such as the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act and the Patriotic Act, to ensure full participation in public affairs and respect for fundamental freedoms.

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