Zimbabweans vote in first post-Mugabe election

Opinion polls have given only a slight lead to incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabweans voted on Monday in the first election since former President Robert Mugabe was ousted in a de facto coup, with allegations of voter suppression raising fears of a disputed result.

Nelson Chamisa, the main challenger to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, gave no evidence for his claim that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was impeding voting in urban areas where he enjoys strong support. “The people’s will being negated & undetermined due to these deliberate & unnecessary delays,” Mr. Chamisa tweeted.

A credible election is essential if Zimbabwe is to exit painful sanctions and secure the donor funding needed to stem chronic cash shortages.

‘Ballot mischief’

Mr. Chamisa said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would win if there was no “ballot mischief”, making it likely he will challenge the outcome if Mr. Mnangagwa prevails, something likely to lead to street protests and possible violence.

Dozens of people were killed ahead of a run-off in 2008 between Mr. Mugabe and MDC-founder Morgan Tsvangirai.

While absent from the ballot paper for the first time since independence from Britain in 1980, Mr. Mugabe emerged from eight months of obscurity on the eve of the election to announce he would vote for the Opposition, surprising former ally Mr. Mnangagwa who accused him of striking a deal with Mr. Chamisa.

Mr. Mugabe, 94, made no comment to reporters as he cast his ballot around lunchtime accompanied by his wife, Grace. A huge crowd gathered outside, some cheering, many booing. Mr. Mnangagwa denied Mr. Mugabe’s claim that the vote would not be free since it was being run by a “military government”.

“I can assure you that this country is enjoying democratic space which has never been experienced before,” Mr. Mnangagwa told public television after voting.

Run-off possible

Opinion polls gave Mr. Mnangagwa, 75, only a slim lead over Mr. Chamisa, 40. There will be a run-off on September 8 if no candidate wins more than half the votes.

“Victory is certain, the people have spoken,” Mr. Chamisa said after casting his ballot in Harare as a cheering crowd chanted: “President! President! The President is here!” “I have no doubt that by end of day today we should be very clear as to an emphatic voice for change,” Mr. Chamisa said.

The European Union, the U.S. and the Commonwealth have sent observers.

Mr. Mnangagwa has made a big effort to win over foreign opinion; hosting Western Ambassadors, courting investors and patching up relations with white commercial farmers who were violently evicted from their farms under Mr. Mugabe.

Source: Read Full Article