A new president took power in Zimbabwe on Sunday after being declared winner by the country’s constitutional court in the contested July 30 elections. Emmerson Mnangagwa from the ruling Zanu-PF party was sworn in as president after narrowly winning the elections with 50.8 % of the vote against 44.3 % for his main opponent Nelson Chamisa from the MDC Alliance. Chamisa had questioned the results and described them as fraudulent and illegal. Six persons were killed by the military and police when his supporters protested in the streets of the capital Harare directly after the elections. An opposition politician and former finance minister, Tendai Biti, has been arrested.
A number of international election observer missions, including from the EU, observed the elections in Zimbabwe. In a joint statement on 2 August, they denounced the “excessive use of force to quell protests”.
The first findings of the EU Election Observation Mission, headed by Chief Observer MEP Elmar Brok, indicate “that the elections were competitive, and that overall political freedoms were respected during the campaign. Nevertheless a number of shortcomings were observed, including the lack of a truly level playing field.”
The final mission report has not been issued yet. Asked by the Brussels Times at a press briefing in Brussels yesterday (27 August), a spokesperson for the European External Action Service (EEAS) replied that the report is still under preparation.
In 2002, EU sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe because of “serious violations of human rights and freedom of opinion, of association and of peaceful assembly” in the run up of the elections that year. The US has enacted even tougher sanctions against the former regime which only can be lifted if the recent elections are “widely accepted as free and fair”.
An EU arms embargo is still in place but restricted measures in form of travel limitations and asset freezes were largely lifted in recent years and only include the former Presidential couple (Mugabe) and Zimbabwe Defence Industries. Five high ranking officers from the security forces also continue to be included in the EU list of restrictive measures, although on a suspended basis.
EU could review its sanctions policy at any moment to take into account the progress achieved in the country. According to an EU source, that will include the assessment of the elections but other issues as well.