Human Rights Watch issued a report Wednesday saying that Zimbabwe's March 29 elections were not likely be free or fair despite some electoral system improvements, citing “serious electoral flaws and human rights abuses by the government.”
The report, entitled “All Over Again,” concluded Zimbabweans are not free to vote for the candidates of their choice. The New York-based group cited harassment and violence against opposition members, mostly perpetrated by state agents.
"As Zimbabweans head to the polls in the country's March 29 elections, serious electoral flaws and human rights abuses by the government undermine any meaningful prospect of free and fair elections," the group said.
It said the government and ruling ZANU-PF party have "engaged in widespread intimidation of the opposition; have restricted freedom of association and assembly; and have manipulated food and farming equipment...to gain political advantage."
Human Rights Watch noted electoral system flaws including chaotic voter registration, the outright disenfranchisement of voters, a partisan electoral commission, and deficient voter education programs.
Human Rights Watch researcher Tiseke Kisambala told reporter Patience Rusere that the burden now lies on observers of the Southern African Development Community to issue a tough report and ensure there are consequences for Harare.
The organization called on SADC to "monitor the elections and to judge the political context in which the elections are being held, not just the electoral process itself." It noted that the last presidential election in 2000, in which President Robert Mugabe was re-elected, "were characterized by violence and electoral malpractice," and "similar flaws and violations" marred general elections in 2000 and 2005.