In terms of the Constitution and Electoral Laws of Zimbabwe, in the normal course of events, the country conducts harmonised elections every five years. Following the end of the five-year term of the government that was elected in 2013, Zimbabweans went to polls on 30 July 2018. This report presents ZESN’s observations of each sector of the electoral cycle: the pre-election, the polling, and the post-election periods. The observations were gathered through the deployment of 7240 trained observers: 210 Long Term Observers (LTOs), who primarily focused on observing and reporting on the pre and post-election periods in all the country’s 210 National Assembly constituencies from 18 May to 31 August 2018; 750 Sample Based Observers (SBOs) who observed at randomly selected polling stations on the Election Day; and 6280 Short Term Observers (STOs), at selected polling stations in every ward. The observers were provided with checklists designed to guide the collection of relevant data.
The 2018 harmonised were held in a relatively peaceful environment, a break from a past of violent and tension laden elections to which Zimbabweans had become accustomed. In general, human and political rights were respected more than in previous elections, including freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and the media. The election was also the first to feature a new presidential candidate since 1980 in the case of the Zimbabwe African Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and for the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (as the MDC Alliance in this year’s election) since 2002. Mugabe resigned in the midst of an impeachment process that followed a military intervention code named “Operation Restore Legacy” in November 2017 while Tsvangirai succumbed to cancer in February 2018. An unprecedented 23 candidates participated in the 2018 presidential race; 1648 candidates from 55 political parties and three political party coalitions vied for the 210 National Assembly seats; and 6796 candidates vied for the 1958 local government (councils) positions. However, the race was essentially between ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance, which together, clearly would command the majority of votes.