The executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) says Zimbabwean voters deserve praise following a peaceful general election Wednesday.
“People were sending a clear message that that they are here basically to perform their duty as citizens of Zimbabwe. It was very calm and that is why I am saying that Zimbabweans deserve a huge commendation in that regard,” said SADC executive secretary Tomaz Augusto Salomão.
Salomão says Zimbabweans demonstrated that they are capable of organizing a peaceful vote despite predictions among skeptics that there could be violence during the vote.
“It was peaceful, calm smooth and amazing,” said Salomão. “We need to commend Zimbabweans because people came in huge numbers to the polling stations to vote.”
He says the SADC poll observer mission’s preliminary report about the vote would be released on Friday. Salomão says it was too early for the regional bloc to give its full assessment of the vote so soon after it took place, but adds that the balloting went well despite the long lines.
Zimbabwe’s electoral body has until next Monday to release the results of the vote.
SADC deployed six hundred observers throughout Zimbabwe to monitor the elections. Salomão says the regional bloc is compiling reports of its poll monitors.
“We have observers on the ground and we are receiving their reports while the process is still on,” said Salomão. “We have the biggest operation ever observing elections. Our observers were deployed in all regions and provinces of Zimbabwe.
Some political analysts had worried about a possible repeat of the 2008 violence, which led to President Robert Mugabe and his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai to sharing power in a coalition government. Salomão says there were no reports of violence during the voting process this time.
“I think you will hear from reports from different observers that violence is something that belongs to the past [and that] in 2013 there were no incidents of violence,” said Salomão.
The United States expressed concern about partisan behavior by state security institutions, as well as technical and logistical issues that could keep Wednesday's vote from being transparent and credible.
About 7,000 domestic observers and several hundred more from various African countries monitored the vote. But, Western observers were barred from monitoring the election.