Observer accreditation fees discourage electoral observation

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has again called for the scrapping of accreditation fees for local observers wishing to monitor the 2023 elections.

Under the recent Statutory Instrument 144 of 2022, local observer fees have been set at US$10.

This means political parties and election watchdogs need a maximum of US$100 000 each to deploy at least 10 000 observers to monitor the polls.

According to the independent watchdog, the fees must be scrapped as election observation is the bedrock of democracy.  

“Zesn notes that election observation is the bedrock of democracy and is key in assessing whether the electoral process was conducted in accordance with the laws of the country; to assess whether the country’s electoral framework conforms with international/regional principles, norms, standards, and best practices; provides an impartial and accurate appraisal of the electoral environment; provides recommendations for improving electoral processes; promotes confidence in electoral processes; fosters respect for the outcomes of genuine democratic elections and promotes of openness and transparency among others,” the Zesn said.

“Zesn, therefore, calls on the Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs to waive accreditation fees for domestic observers to enhance the transparency in elections in Zimbabwe.”

The fees for foreign observers from non-African countries have risen from US$50 to US$300 for embassy staff and from US$100 to US$400 for other foreign observers.

In an analysis, legislative watchdog Veritas said the fees will discourage electoral observation.

“Both the old fees and the new ones discriminate between local observers, observers from Africa and observers from elsewhere.  There is another ground for regarding the new fees as invalid, which is that they are so high they will discourage foreigners from observing our elections,” Veritas said.

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