News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Mahama leads election observers to Zimbabwe

Mahama, ex-President of Ghana

By Prudence Arobani

Former President of Ghana, Mr John Mahama, will lead a Commonwealth group to observe Zimbabwe’s general elections on July 30, the Commonwealth Secretariat has announced.

The secretariat, in a statement by its Media Division, said Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, would deploy Mahama to lead other eminent persons from across the regions of Commonwealth.

Zimbabwe is not a member of the Commonwealth.

It withdrew from the organisation in 2003 after it was suspended for being in breach of the Harare Declaration, which sets out the Commonwealth’s core principles and values.

However, in May, President Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote to the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, expressing an interest in re-joining the association and requesting the Commonwealth to observe its forthcoming elections.

The observation group’s report on the election would contribute to the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s informal assessment of whether Zimbabwe should be readmitted, the Secretariat said.

It quoted the Secretary-General as saying: “I am extremely pleased to be deploying a group to observe the elections.

“Its report on the electoral process will give member countries a clear view of adherence to Commonwealth values in Zimbabwe, including democracy and rule of law plus protection of human rights such as freedom of expression.

“Our heads of government have said twice, in 2009 and 2011 that they look forward to Zimbabwe’s return.

“I very much hope that the forthcoming election proves that the conditions are right’’.

Following the visit of a pre-election assessment team to the country in June, the Secretary-General has constituted a 24-member team of observers, led by Mahama.

The former Ghanaian president had previously led the Commonwealth teams observing elections in Sierra Leone and Kenya.

There are 23 presidential candidates in coming Zimbabwe’s election.

In accordance with Zimbabwe’s constitution, if no presidential candidate receives a clear majority in the election on July 30, a run-off vote will be held on Sept. 8.

The 270-seat House of Assembly is comprised of 210 members elected from constituencies and 60 women elected by proportional representation.

Commonwealth observers would assess factors affecting the credibility of the electoral process as a whole, the secretariat said.

They would consider the pre-electoral environment, voting process, counting and tabulation procedures and the announcement of results.

“The group is independent and will determine, in its own judgement, whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards of Zimbabwe’s election-related legislation as well as relevant regional, Commonwealth and international commitments.

“Observers will act impartially and will adhere to the standards of the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory,’’ the Commonwealth Secretariat said.

The Group would submit its report to the Secretary-General, who would send it to the Government of Zimbabwe, its Electoral Commission, political parties and all Commonwealth governments.

The report would then be made public.

The Observer Group would arrive in Zimbabwe on July 23 and would be supported by a nine-member staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by Katalaina Sapolu, Director of the Governance and Peace Directorate. (NAN)