Zimbabwe elections not fair - say international ecumenical observers

 A mission of 60 non-European Union ecumenical peace observers has concluded that the Zimbabwean elections were not fair. The group, which was invited by President Mugabe to observe the elections, found that the voting in one area was a 'sad experience' and that in several parts of the country it was marred by political violence. Both parties were responsible for this violence, although in the 'clear majority of cases' the incidents were the fault of the ruling party. The observers' report also points up failings in the postal vote system, and that large number of people were denied a vote due, among other reasons, to problems with the registration procedure. The report says that while the majority of the violence occurred in the lead-up to the election, some incidents were witnessed during polling time as well. 'The violence comes from the rivalry between the two leading parties and both parties have been behind violent episodes. The documentation from the human rights organisations as well as our own observations indicates that the clear majority of cases should be blamed on the ruling party.' ' We commend the efforts of the polling officers and monitors who have concluded an enormous task, and we applaud the voters who turned out in millions showing civic responsibility and endurance, although a huge number of people were denied the possibility to vote,' it says. 'We appreciate that the government has invited international election observers from most countries , but regret that only 109 of more than 3,650 local observers from the churches were accredited.' The report concludes: 'These observations preclude us from confirming the elections to be universal, transparent, fair or free.' The 60 observers, mostly from African countries, who travelled to Zimbabwe were representatives of the World Council of Churches and Christian Aid partner the All African Conference of Churches. This report comes at the same time as the findings of the Electoral Commissions Forum of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community, which also states the elections were unfair. 'When it came to the criteria and basic elements for freeness and fairness, these were not adequately met,' says Leshele Thoahlane, head of the Electoral Commissions Forum 36-member observer mission. source: Christian Aid

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