Harare - 29 May 2008 - The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a network of 38 organisations is concerned about the pronouncement on 16 May 2008 made by Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that the Ministry will issue new invitations to local observers who wish to observe the run off. 

The invitation of foreign observers remain valid, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. However the Minister for Justice insists that all local observers are required to be invited again and re- accredited even if they participated in the 29 March election. The Minister also added that accreditation fees will also be revised upwards.  

It is absurd to note the selective application of procedures on observers yet other procedures for the run off remain the same. ZESN is of the view that the run off is an extension of an unfinished process merely because there was no absolute winner in the Presidential polls of 29 March 2008.  

It is on this basis that ZESN calls on the Minister of Justice to waiver the second accreditation and allow all local observers who had been accredited for the 29 March elections to observe the 27 June run-off presidential elections. ZESN also urges the Minister to allow for new additional local observers to be accredited for the run-off election and the decentralization of the accreditation process to other provinces so as to ensure an efficient processing.

Considering the Minister’s pronouncements on 16 May 2008, 6 weeks before the runoff, it is not feasible for local observers to undergo the same process of waiting for invitations, accreditation, training in the event that the Minister does not invite those who observed on 29 March elections.  ZESN believes this process of new invitations and re-accrediting local observers would be extremely expensive and time consuming.  It costly for observer groups like ZESN given that all observers from the entire country would need to travel to Harare and Bulawayo for accreditation, as this process has not been decentralised to either provincial or district level.

These new requirements for new invitations to observe the runoff suggests a deliberate attempt to curtail domestic election observation that has become critical in promoting transparency, accountability and voter confidence.  Domestic observation of elections is important not just on election day but in the run up to elections and during the post election period when foreign observers are gone.

Furthermore the fact that some domestic observers are still being harassed, victimised and targeted in the post election violence, a month before a crucial election raises serious concerns in the holding of a transparent, free and fair run-off.

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