The past week saw millions of people take part in critical ballots around the world. There were general elections in Cambodia, Pakistan, Mali and Zimbabwe, where the United Nations provided electoral assistance. That help, delivered by different parts of the UN system, was channeled through the Department of Political Affairs, whose head, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary A. DiCarlo, serves as the UN’s focal point on elections. Below we take a quick look at those polls and the support the UN provided.
Pakistan held its general elections on 25 July. Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated the people of Pakistan for reaffirming their commitment to a democratic Pakistan by exercising their constitutional right to vote. He noted the positive initiatives taken by the Electoral Commission of Pakistan to enhance the role of women, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups, as well as first-time voters in the electoral process. The UN has provided electoral assistance to the Electoral Commission of Pakistan through the UN Development Programme (UNDP) “Strengthening Electoral and Legislative Processes” project (2013-2020) focusing on institutional capacity building, including training, support to electoral technologies, voter information and public outreach, and gender mainstreaming efforts with civil society.
In the run-up to the presidential elections in Mali on 29 July, Secretary-General Guterres called on all Malians to maintain the peaceful course that had characterized the electoral campaign overall, despite security challenges in the north and center of the country.
The United Nations provides technical and logistics assistance to Mali mostly through UNDP, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and UN Women. MINUSMA has provided technical assistance to the Malian authorities’ efforts to create conditions that are conducive for the holding of credible and peaceful elections, including for the preparation and dispatching of electoral materials as well as sensitization and training of electoral officials. The mission has also made transportation available for all candidates to travel to the north and center of the country for campaign purposes.
Finally, Zimbabwe held harmonised (presidential, parliamentary and local government) elections on 30 July, which were the first elections held since the resignation of former President Mugabe in November 2018. Some 12,000 observers, including 980 internationals, observed about 11,000 polling stations, which was unprecedented. Following reports of violence in the capital Harare after the elections, the Secretary-General called on the political leaders and the population to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence while awaiting the announcement of the election results. He further called on political leaders and electoral contestants to pursue any disputes through peaceful means, dialogue and in accordance with the law. According to the results announced on 2 August, incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa avoided a run-off by winning 50.8% of the votes while the opposition MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa, garnered 44.3%. The ruling ZANU PF party secured a two-thirds majority in Parliament with 69% (145 out of 210 seats) while the opposition MDC Alliance secured 30% (63 seats). A formal petition to the Constitutional Court could be filed within seven days after the announcement of the results. The elected president can only be sworn in upon exhausting the challenge to the elections.
The UN, through UNDP/Zimbabwe, has been providing technical assistance to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), including biometric voter registration; voter education and ZEC’s engagement with stakeholders. In addition, the UN has been supporting other national institutions, such as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Gender Commission, which have been involved in the electoral process. UN Women has been providing support to promoting the participation of women in elections, as candidates and as voters.
Title picture: Scene from a polling station in Bamako during Mali’s presidential election on 29 July. Photo MINUSMA/Marco Dormino