The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regional bloc on Tuesday expressed satisfaction over steps taken by authorities in Zimbabwe to prepare for the general elections expected in the next two months.

COMESA, which has just wrapped-up its pre-election assessment mission to Zimbabwe, said it appreciated an atmosphere ahead of elections that allows citizens to freely express themselves on their political choices, their hopes and concerns.

The COMESA observer team also noted the strides made in other areas such as the adoption and successful use of the biometric voter registration kits, the voter verification exercise, including the use of text messages, to inform voters on the location of their polling stations, and efforts by the electoral body to decongest the polling stations during the voting day, according to a statement.

“We have noted the freedom with which the stakeholders and the citizens are expressing themselves and this is a major step forward towards deepening democracy in this country,” Ashraf Rashed, the head of the mission, said.

The 19-member regional bloc urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the government to continue to enhance the communications with stakeholders in addressing concerns raised by stakeholders, to increase public confidence in the electoral process and outcome of the elections.

The nine-member COMESA observer team, which conducted a six-day assessment of the situation, held 15 consultations and meetings with various stakeholders and prepared a preliminary report, which was presented to the electoral body and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Moyo, according to the statement.

The report contains draft findings as well as recommendations for improving electoral governance, including issues relating to voter registration, the management of ballot papers and voter rolls, security prior and during elections and media coverage.

According to the statement, the assessment was based on the legal framework governing elections in Zimbabwe and the regional, continental and international standards on the conduct of democratic elections. Enditem

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