WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, issued the following statement Tuesday as Zimbabweans prepare to go to the polls to choose their next president:

“As voters heading to the polls in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, I remain deeply concerned about reports of incomplete reforms and hasty preparations, including ongoing political activity by security forces and a lack of transparency of the voter registry and distribution of ballots.  Against this backdrop, elections observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) have a very important and challenging role to play in assessing the credibility and fairness of the electoral process.  I urge election observers to perform their duties rigorously, and SADC and the AU to hold Zimbabwe accountable for meeting the standards of transparency, fairness, and respect for civil liberties — both during and after the election — set out in SADC’s own Principles and Guidelines for democratic elections.  Regardless of the outcome of the election, the international community must not turn a blind eye to a flawed process, and must continue to press for meaningful democratic reforms and greater respect for the civil liberties of all Zimbabweans.”   

Zimbabwe will hold its first national elections since the deeply flawed and violent 2008 election, which led to creation of a fractious coalition government and an agenda for reform.  The months leading to the election have been marred by intimidation and harassment of human rights activists, biased political activity by security forces, and rushed, non-transparent technical preparation for the elections.  Senator Coons chaired a hearing on Zimbabwe on June 18.