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.
In May of this year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote to the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, 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 will contribute to the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s informal assessment of whether Zimbabwe should be readmitted.
“I am extremely pleased to be deploying a group to observe the elections,” stated the Secretary-General. “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 Mr Mahama, the former president of Ghana. He has previously led the Commonwealth teams observing elections in Sierra Leone and Kenya.
There are 23 presidential candidates in all. In accordance with Zimbabwe’s constitution, if no presidential candidate receives a clear majority in the election on 30 July, a run-off vote will be held on 8 September.
The 270-seat House of Assembly is composed of 210 members elected from constituencies and 60 women elected by proportional representation.
Commonwealth observers will assess factors affecting the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. They will consider the pre-electoral environment, the 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 Group will submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will send it to the Government of Zimbabwe, its Electoral Commission, political parties and all Commonwealth governments. The report will then be made public.
The Commonwealth Observer Group will arrive in Zimbabwe on 23 July 2018, and will be supported by a nine-member staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by Katalaina Sapolu, Director of the Governance and Peace Directorate.
The Commonwealth Observer Group members are:
HE John Dramani Mahama
Former President of Ghana
Mr Gary Dunn
Former Deputy Secretary-General
Mr Darrel Bradley
Former Mayor of Belize City
Member of Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Board
Rev Mpho MW Moruakgomo
Association of Local Authorities
and Chairperson of Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Board
Dr Fonkam Azu’u
Ms Sabrina Grover
Strategic Partnerships Advisor
Young Diplomats of Canada
Prof John Packer
Conflict Resolution Expert
Prof Kwadwo Afari-Gyan
Hon Hanna Tetteh
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
and Member of Parliament
Mr Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
Journalist and Senior Editor
Judge Margarette May Macaulay
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Justice Willy Munyoki Mutunga
Retired Chief Justice
Advocate Mary-Ann Ooi Suan Kim
Advocate & Solicitor
Dr Francis Agius
Former Minister and Former Head of
Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe
Mr Tim Barnett
Former Member of Parliament
Ms Andie Fong Toy
Former Deputy Secretary-General (Political)
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Ms Clare A Keizer
Editor-In-Chief of Searchlight newspaper
St Vincent and The Grenadines
Ms Marcella Sesay Samba
National Elections Watch
Ms Janet Love
Mr Nikoli Edwards
Former Vice Chairperson Policy, Advocacy and Projects
Commonwealth Youth Council
Trinidad and Tobago
Prof Sylvia Tamale
Lord Robert Hayward OBE
Member of the House of Lords
The Rt Hon the Baroness Margaret Jay
Member of the House of Lords
Judge David Radford
Retired Senior Circuit Judge