Zimbabwe: bishops call for free and fair elections

 The Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe have called on the government and other political actors to ensure the elections in March 2008 are credible. In a pastoral letter issued on Sunday, the bishops noted that past elections had been marred by violence and controversy. The letter is titled: Only When Power Stands under God's Blessing Can It Be Trusted. "This time, we urge government and all the contesting parties to create a social, political and economic climate that enhances moral integrity. We urge those responsible for organizing the elections to establish a credible electoral process, whose outcome will be free and fair and with local and international recognition," the bishops said. At the same time the pastors urged Christians to "become more involved in political life, running for office, working within political parties and communicating concerns to the elected officials. While individuals were free to make their political choices, voting should be guided by one,s convictions, and not merely by political loyalty. "Christian voters should use the Christian Social Teaching to examine the views of the candidates on pertinent issues and should consider the candidates, integrity and their past or potential performance, the bishops said. The leaders stressed on the important role played by the national electoral commission, saying it should inspire confidence and protect the integrity of the electoral process. The body must be impartial and not amenable to political or other pressure. The bishops also called on both public and private media to be impartial in covering the campaigns. The media should accord equal opportunity to all shades of political opinion. In the run up to the elections, the bishops said, Zimbabweans should be given ample opportunity to register as voters. Political parties should freely conduct responsible campaigns and should receive the necessary state support in terms of police protection, access to public media and financial subsidies. The freedom of people to attend political meetings of their choice should be respected. "To promote informed choices, all those organizations concerned with civic education should team up to educate people about elections and encourage open-minded citizens. The bishops urged all voters to cast their ballots on the Election Day because "participation in political life in the light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty of every Christian and all people of good will. The state should ensure the exercise is efficient. After elections, candidates should be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. "Both opposition and government should have one common aim, which is the realization of the common good of the society. The pastors urged Zimbabweans to pray privately and in their parishes for a successful poll. "After elections, all citizens should join forces to build the Zimbabwe we all want. We appeal to all citizens to adopt a spirit of oneness and solidarity. Lack of solidarity increases the gap between the rich and the poor in the society," they said. Source: CISA

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