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Carter Center Urges Zimbabweans to Vote

ATLANTA, GA... The Carter Center encourages the people of Zimbabwe to remain determined to vote in the presidential elections on March 9-10, 2002, even though the government of Zimbabwe has not met its responsibilities to ensure that conditions for open and peaceful elections are in place.

"Although this election is already seriously flawed and The Carter Center cannot be there, we want to express our support for the people of Zimbabwe and their courageous commitment to preserve the democratic process," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The Carter Center has been following events in Zimbabwe closely and recently sent a delegation to Zimbabwe that sought, but did not receive, an invitation to observe the forthcoming presidential elections.

The Center is deeply concerned about continued reports of political violence, internal displacement of the population, the activities of armed militias unchecked by the government and police actions that have violated basic political rights and freedoms. In particular, the application of draconian public law and order legislation has prevented parties from campaigning freely.

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum norms and standards for elections, in accordance with accepted international standards, clearly support the principles of political tolerance, freedom of association, and peaceful, credible elections. The degree to which the elections in Zimbabwe live up to these standards will set the course of the country for years to come and affect stability in the entire Southern Africa region.

The Carter Center has impartially observed 35 elections in 20 countries, including the 1999 and 2001 presidential elections in neighboring Mozambique and Zambia, respectively. "Our support for free elections in Zimbabwe reflects the democratic aspirations of Zimbabweans and is not an imposition from outside. Ever since I was president, I consistently supported the cause of national liberation but always with the goal of a free, prosperous, and democratic Zimbabwe," Carter said.

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