EU pledges to uphold impartiality in observing Zimbabwe polls

Khartoum, Sudan 8 April 2010 EU Observers - Elections in Sudan. Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti
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HARARE, (Xinhua) — European Union observers on Saturday pledged to uphold impartiality in observing Zimbabwe’s July 30 polls, the first time the mission is observing the polls since 2002.

This follows its invitation by the new Zimbabwe government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to deploy an observer mission.

Mnangagwa assumed power following the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe last November.

Addressing a contingent of 44 long-term observers just before their deployment throughout Zimbabwe on Saturday, deputy chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) Mark Stevens said the mission will not interfere in Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.

“As you go around your work in the following weeks, please keep in mind the role of observers. Our job is to be impartial, to be independent and never to interfere in the process,” said Stevens.

The 44 long-term observers are the EU’s second contingent to Zimbabwe following the core team, which arrived in Harare on June 6.

“The long-term observers will cover all 10 provinces in both, urban and rural areas. They will observe the entire electoral process prior, during and after the harmonized elections,” said Stevens.

He said the observers will be meeting electoral officials, candidates and representatives from political parties, civil society and the media.

Prior to their deployment, the long-term observers received a three-day in-depth briefing in Harare on the electoral background, political environment and other topics.

A total of 44 short-term observers and a delegation of the European Parliament will join the long-term observers shortly before the election.

“Together with diplomats accredited in Harare the EU EOM is expected to deploy on election day about 140 observers from all 28 member states as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada,” Stevens said.

He added that the EU EOM’s analysis will include aspects such as the legal framework, the work of the election administration, the campaign activities of the candidates and political parties, the conduct of the media, the voting, counting and the tabulation of results and the resolution of election related disputes.

The EU observer mission will issue a preliminary statement shortly after the elections with the final report – with technical recommendations for future elections – expected two months later.

A total of 23 presidential candidates have registered to contest the poll, the highest number since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.