Carter Center Finds Deep Flaws in Zimbabwe Elections and Calls for Release of Polling-Station Level Results

ATLANTA — The Carter Center today issued its preliminary statement (PDF) on the Aug. 23 elections in Zimbabwe, finding that they took place in a restricted political environment with an unlevel playing field and that the election administration lacked independence and transparency in key areas, undermining the credibility of the process.

Overall, the Center concluded that the 2023 electoral process did not adequately respect Zimbabwe’s regional and international commitments for democratic and inclusive elections, which made it difficult for contestants to compete on an equal basis and prevented the genuine expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.

The Center’s statement noted that Carter Center observers found that while voting day was largely peaceful and well implemented by polling staff, there were delayed openings caused by ballot shortages in several areas. Some delays lasted as long as 12 hours, which likely depressed voter turnout. The Center also found that critical election information — including the final voter list and the list of polling stations — was not readily available to stakeholders. Observers reported numerous instances of assisted voting in rural areas, raising concerns that the secrecy of the vote may have been compromised.

The Center further reported that agents from the two main political parties were present in most polling stations and tally centers that observers visited. There also was a widespread presence of citizen observers. However, Zimbabwean authorities conducted a raid on election night and shut down the nonpartisan citizen observation efforts of two respected civil society groups, the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network and the Election Resource Center. The Center continues to urge the government of Zimbabwe to drop all charges against the civil society leaders and respect their rights of political participation.

On Aug. 26, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced presidential election results indicating that incumbent President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa received 2,350.711 votes (52.6%) and that leading opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa received 1,967.343 (44%), with voter turnout reported as 69%. Chamisa has announced his intention to challenge the results.

Results for the National Assembly and local authority elections were announced at the constituency and the ward level, respectively. The electoral published the results on its webpage; however, technical problems made the site difficult to access and led to limited public access to information.

Given the highly polarized post-election environment and lack of trust among political stakeholders, the Center stressed that it is critical that the electoral commission publish detailed results at the polling-station level on a timely basis so that political parties and observers can cross-verify the results, in accordance with international best practice, to help ensure the transparency and credibility of the election process.


Following an invitation from the government of Zimbabwe to observe the Aug. 23 elections, The Carter Center launched an observation mission in late July with a 10-person core team. Fifteen long-term observers joined them in early August, and in mid-August, 48 additional short-term observers arrived in Zimbabwe. The delegation was led by the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria, Attahiru Muhammadu Jega.

For unexplained reasons, Zimbabwean authorities would not approve accreditation for 30 of the Center’s short-term observers, even though they had been provided visas and were in the country. On Aug. 22, the Center issued a public statement asking the government of Zimbabwe to approve the accreditations, calling the failure to do so a severe and unwarranted obstruction to the Center’s mission that was inconsistent with commonly recognized and respected norms and practices and unprecedented in the Center’s 30-plus years of observing elections.

The Carter Center has observed more than 110 elections in over 40 different countries since 1989. It conducts its missions in accordance with the 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, and its assessments and analyses of elections are based on regional and international human rights obligations and standards for democratic elections, including the SADC Principles and Guidelines and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.


Contact: In Atlanta, Maria Cartaya, marí

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.