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Zimbabwe elections neither free nor fair


Zimbabwe elections neither free nor fair

Yesterday's Zimbabwe elections had some positive aspects but the electoral playing field was still far from level, Acting Foreign Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

"New Zealand joins others in calling for a return to accountable and democratic governance in Zimbabwe," Marian Hobbs said. "We will continue to support civil society and all those who are trying to make a better life for the people of Zimbabwe."

The New Zealand Government sent an accredited observer from our High Commission in South Africa to join a diplomatic observers' team.

"There was less political violence in the elections," Marian Hobbs said. "The opposition had some access to public electronic media. In most cases the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was able to hold planned rallies and meetings, and observers noticed a generally calmer atmosphere.

"It was pleasing to see large numbers of Zimbabweans participate in a calm polling day and demonstrate their determination to exercise their democratic right.

"However, I don't consider the elections were either free or fair. There is a culture of fear and intimidation throughout the country, and the electoral playing field in Zimbabwe remains tilted in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

"The independent media has effectively been driven from the country and the military was deployed in the period leading up to the elections."

This was the first election held in Zimbabwe since the Southern African Development Community (SADC) adopted regional guidelines governing democratic elections. They provide useful benchmarks for assessing the elections.

"Independent electoral bodies were not established in time to have any real impact on these elections and there were problems reported with both the voters' roll and the delimitation of constituencies. Polling stations were also placed in 'non-neutral' locations," Marian Hobbs said.

"The political and economic climate in Zimbabwe, the humanitarian situation and human rights issues, show little sign of improvement. New Zealand has consistently condemned the abuses of the Mugabe Government, a regime that we do not recognise as having a legitimate democratic mandate."

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