WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, issued the following statement on today’s election in Zimbabwe. This is the country’s first ever presidential election without former President Robert Mugabe on the ballot.

“Today’s election in Zimbabwe is a historic opportunity for the country to embark down a path of democratic reform.  Past elections in Zimbabwe were marred by violence, voter intimidation, heavily biased state-run media, and a lack of transparency, resulting in President Mugabe maintaining his hold on power for 37 years. It’s time for this to change. Zimbabwe must break from the past and chart a peaceful and inclusive path forward for its citizens.

“Zimbabwe has made notable progress in its preparations for this election including President Mnangagwa’s public commitment to credible elections, the welcoming of international observers, improvements in the political climate, the introduction of a Biometric Voter Registration process resulting in a new voter roll, and a court ruling barring traditional leaders from partisan politics.  However, there continue to be problematic conditions that raise concerns and, worse, may undermine the credibility of the electoral environment. The Government of Zimbabwe must urgently address continued legal restrictions on freedom of assembly, lack of opportunities for diaspora voting, unequal access to media, and concerns about voter intimidation, ballot secrecy, and corruption over ballot procurement.

“The credibility of this election will ultimately be determined by the commitment of the Zimbabwean government to democracy.  The international community will also be closely watching in order to ensure the will of the Zimbabwean people is expressed in a free and fair election.  I urge all political, security, and military actors in Zimbabwe to publicly commit to neutrality and nonviolence, and respect the will of the Zimbabwean people. I stand ready to partner in efforts to advance reforms in support of an inclusive, just, and democratic Zimbabwe.”

Earlier this  year, Booker visited Zimbabwe as part of a Congressional delegation trip to Africa. During the trip he met with members of the political opposition, Zimbabwean government officials including President Mnangagwa, Vice President Chiwenga, and Foreign Minister Moyo, and local civil society groups. In the meeting with President Mnangagwa, Booker and his colleagues stressed the importance of inclusive and credible elections.