Senator Jim Risch: The 2023 Zim elections were a sham, environment was not fair #ElectionsZW
By Pearl Matibe
U.S. Senator Jim Risch has called on America to consider reevaluating all aspects of its relationship with the Zimbabwean government following a reportedly “sham 2023 general election.’’
Zimbabwe held general elections on the 23rd of August to elect a President, Members of Parliament and Councillors.
The elections did not meet international, regional and continental standards of holding elections.
Senator Risch who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (a U.S institution which helps to shape American Foreign Policy) said the government created an unfair environment for elections
“The 2023 elections in Zimbabwe were a sham. The government weaponized the judiciary, silenced the opposition, manipulated the accreditation of observers, and created an unfair pre-election environment,” he said.
In a statement released by the Senate Committee on Friday, 25 August, Senator Risch expressed his assessment of Zimbabwe’s performance on the administration of its elections this week.
“On August 23 and 24, it further sabotaged the electoral process by delaying polling station openings, intimidating voters, and unlawfully detaining accredited observers. What occurred was not an exercise in democracy,” Senator Risch said.
It is not unusual for the most senior U.S. senators to express their opinions on issues around the world which they deem important in their oversight and legislative role. Often referred to as “Jim,” Senator Jim Risch often puts his views on public record, and he does this sometimes through resolutions in the Senate.
“The people of Zimbabwe should continue to advocate for their constitutional right to choose their leaders freely without fear and use peaceful means to voice their discontent with the electoral process. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should complete the vote count transparently and honestly. Zimbabwean authorities must also immediately release all election observers and other stakeholders detained for legally carrying out their duties to support the electoral process,” said Senator Risch’s, known in Congress as a pragmatic decision maker.
He called on the international community to continue supporting the people of Zimbabwe, saying “The U.S. government and the international community must remain alert, continue to shine a light on the severe violations of Zimbabwe’s electoral law, and act to prevent further state violence against Zimbabweans.”
Senator Risch has called for a review of all aspects of the existing U.S.-Zimbabwe relationship. “Finally, we must reevaluate all facets of our relationship with a Zimbabwean government that ignores its people’s will and flouts its laws through acts of violence, looting, and impunity,” he urged.
Zimbabweans went to the polls on Wednesday, 23 August in a general, parliamentary, and local elections which are proving to be a litmus test on the state of the country’s democracy. Since former President Robert Mugabe left office in November 2017, this year’s election is the second since he left office. There were 11 presidential candidates on the ballot.
The cattle rancher and lawyer from Idaho State has often stood firm in countering sanctions narrative and known for clearly stating his foreign policy positions, including saying Risch the, “Zimbabwean Leadership is the Cause of Crisis, Not Sanctions.”
On 1 March, in his opening statement at the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing for the nominee to be ambassador to Zimbabwe, Senator Risch said, “On to the nomination of U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe – I am appalled by the continued abuses of power, excessive corruption, and horrific human rights record by the country’s leadership. These not only inhibit the U.S.-Zimbabwe relationship, but also deprive the region of benefitting from a prosperous Zimbabwe” adding that he hopes the ambassador uphold U.S. principles.
“Our ambassador must hold firm in support for the people of Zimbabwe, while committing to uphold U.S. values on human rights and democracy in engaging the Zimbabwean government,” said expressing his hope that the ambassador is up to the task. On 2 June 2022, President Biden nominated Pamela M. Tremont as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Zimbabwe.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee monitors, gathers, and evaluates information is considers essential to the formulation of America’s foreign policy. Under its authority are foreign affairs matters such as foreign assistance programs, economic assistance, to U.S. allies and partners around the world.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based White House Correspondent, and media commentator with expertise on U.S. foreign policy, and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe