HARARE-- Foreign electoral mission to Zimbabwe's general election on Monday have given the conduct of the polls the thumps up, saying that in addition to being peaceful, the voting showed that Zimbabwe has improved in terms of granting civil and political rights to its citizens.

Addressing the media, the teams of election monitors from the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) said the pre-election period and voting took place in a peaceful, free and fair environment.

The head of the AU observation team, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said the process was highly competitive as evidenced by the high number of presidential, National Assembly and

local council candidates.

The elections took place in a generally peaceful and calm environment with no major incident of violence and restriction on the activities of political parties and candidates observed," he said.

The 2018 elections is an important moment in Zimbabwe's democratic transition and provides an opportunity for the country to change course, in particular, broadening the political space and allowing citizens to exercise their constitutional rights in a democratic way. By and large, the process was peaceful and well-administered, he added.

The mission commended the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for carrying out all the stages of the electoral process in accordance with the the given time-lines and for being fully prepared despite financial and logistical challenges.

It also commended ZEC for making concerted efforts to engage electoral stakeholders through establishing Multi-Party Liaison Committees although it lamented the lack of full utilization of the platform to interact and resolve disputes by all concerned.

The AU commission said it was, however, concerned at the low confidence among many of the opposition parties at the impartiality of ZEC and its ability to conduct transparent and credible elections. Other issues included the low participation of women and polarization of the media.

The head of the COMESA observer mission Ashraf Gamal said Zimbabweans conducted themselves in a professional and transparent manner which met international standards. Gamal stressed the need to follow legal channels to resolve any electoral disputes.

The SADC election observer mission commended Zimbabweans for the peaceful and exemplary conduct which it said was in conformity with domestic laws and regional guidelines.

While agreeing with the other observer missions that the political environment during the voting process was peaceful, the observer mission from the European Union said the playing field was not level as it tended to favour the ruling party, citing subtle intimidation of voters during the campaign period.

The EU said while ZEC put in place administrative arrangements for polling, it lacked transparency and inclusivity, which further diminished the level of trust that stakeholders, including voters, have in its independence and in the electoral process.

"Given the low base of trust in the electoral process among many stakeholders, a more inclusive and transparent approach by the election management body should have been a priority and ZEC could have used discretionary powers to provide transparency," it said.

On the campaign environment, the EU said it was generally peaceful although there was misuse of state resources.

"The elections were competitive, the campaign was largely peaceful and overall, political freedoms during the campaign, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech, were respected," it said.

"However, the misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behavior by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media, all in favor of the ruling party, meant that a truly level playing field was not achieved, which negatively impacted on the democratic character of the electoral; environment."

Zimbabweans voted on Monday to choose a President, Members of Parliament and local council representatives in an election that was characterized by a high voter turn out and which was the first in the

post-Robert Mugabe era.

Results announced so far show that the ruling Zanu PF has won the majority of National Assembly seats.