ATLANTA — The Carter Center today released the final report from its international election observation mission to Zimbabwe’s Aug. 23 harmonized elections.
The report concluded that the overall electoral process did not meet Zimbabwe’s regional and international commitments or the democratic aspirations of Zimbabweans. It offers recommendations to the Zimbabwean government to help bring its electoral processes closer in line with international standards for democratic elections.
The Carter Center found that the election took place in a restricted political environment with an unlevel playing field. This limited candidates from competing on equal terms and prevented the expression of the will of Zimbabweans. Election administration lacked independence and transparency in key areas, undermining the credibility of the process. Critical election information, including the final voters’ roll and list of polling stations, was not readily available to stakeholders.
Only modest electoral reforms were enacted before the election, despite government steps to bring the laws into alignment with the constitution. Laws restricting freedoms of speech, movement, and association increased political tensions and polarization among the electorate and intimidated civil society groups leading up to election day. More extensive changes are needed to lift restrictions on fundamental freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly as well as to promote women’s representation in elected offices.
Election day was largely peaceful and administered well by polling staff. However, extensive voting delays caused by ballot shortages in several constituencies, including in some urban wards considered to be opposition strongholds, likely affected voter turnout. Observers reported numerous instances of assisted voting in rural areas, raising concerns that secrecy of the vote may have been compromised.
The postelection period was characterized by several cases of politically motivated violence, surveillance, reported abductions and detentions of opposition party and civil society activists, and other alleged violations of human rights. Recalls of opposition members of parliament and councilors disenfranchised voters in their respective constituencies, contributing to a decline of democracy in Zimbabwe.
On July 29, 2023, the Center deployed an international election observation mission to observe Zimbabwe’s 2023 harmonized elections. The Center assessed the compliance of the electoral process with regional and international obligations and standards for democratic elections, including principles enshrined in national law, the Southern African Development Community Principles and Guidelines Governing Elections, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, among others. The Carter Center conducted its election observation mission in accordance with the 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. Since 1989, The Carter Center has observed more than 115 elections in over 40 countries, including the United States.