Aug. 5, 2013, 1:41 p.m.
Originally published on NDI.org with ZESN on 8/1/2013: The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), as part of its comprehensive effort to observe the 2013 harmonised elections, deployed more than 7,000 observers to every province and constituency in the country. Here is a summary of ZESN's findings: "Generally the environment was relatively calm and peaceful. Based on empirical reports from its observers, regardless of the outcome, the credibility of the 2013 Harmonised Elections was seriously compromised by a systematic effort to disenfranchise urban voters up to a million voters. "Before election day the voter registration process was systematically biased against urban voters. The voters’ roll of 19 June, as provided by the Office of the Registrar General, clearly showed that urban voters had systematically been denied the opportunity to register to vote. A total of 99.97 percent of rural voters were registered while only 67.94 percent of urban voters were registered. "Over 750,000 urban voters were missing on the voters’ roll compared to rural voters. In contravention of the law, the final voters’ roll was not made available in electronic format prior to election day. Thus there is no way to assess any bias on the final voters’ roll. "On election day urban voters were further systematically disenfranchised. At 82 percent of urban polling stations, many potential voters were turned away and not permitted to vote for reasons that included names not appearing on the voters’ roll and turning up at the wrong ward for voting. This was in sharp contrast to rural areas where only 38 percent of polling stations turned away many potential voters. This served to disenfranchise thousands more urban voters on election day. "These factors on their own fundamentally undermine the degree to which the results of the 2013 harmonised election can be considered to reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people. "When compounded by the massive bias in the state media, the campaign of intimidation in rural areas, the lack of meaningful voter education, the rushed electoral process and the harassment of civil society leaving the credibility of these elections severely compromised, ZESN calls on the African Union, the Southern African Development Community to be objective in their evaluation of these elections and take into cognisance the pre-election issues that have a bearing on the ability of citizens to genuinely choose their government. "We reiterate that it is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful. For elections to be credible they must offer all eligible citizens a reasonable opportunity to register to vote; to inform themselves about the candidates; to vote on election day and for their votes to be properly counted. We are deeply concerned that for urban voters the first three principles have already been violated."