Tension in Zimbabwe as opposition, president claim poll win

Published August 1, 2018
A Zimbabwean checks the results posted outside a polling station in Bulawayo on Tuesday.—AP
A Zimbabwean checks the results posted outside a polling station in Bulawayo on Tuesday.—AP

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party on Tuesday claimed victory in the country’s historic elections, setting the scene for a showdown with the ruling ZANU-PF that has held power since independence in 1980.

Senior MDC official Tendai Biti said party leader Nelson Chamisa had won the presidential race, and alleged that the authorities were delaying the publication of results.

“The results show beyond reasonable doubt that we have won the election and that the next president of Zimbabwe is Nelson Chamisa,” Biti told a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Harare. “We are however seriously concerned about evidence of interference ... there is a deliberate delay in announ­cing the results. This delay is totally unacceptable.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, has also said he was confident of victory in Zimbabwe’s first election since former leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in November after 37 years in power.

“The information from our reps on the ground is extremely positive! Wait­ing patiently for official results as per the constitution,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter early Tuesday.

The rival claims pointed to a contested result, raising the prospect of competing fraud allegations and a possible run-off vote in September -- required if no candidate wins at least 50 per cent of ballots in the first round.

Analysts have said it was unclear whether the country’s generals, who ousted Mugabe and ushered Mnangagwa into office, would accept a win by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Defeat for the ruling party would likely lead “to a denunciation of the election by the Mnangagwa administration and the potential for the military to intervene to secure power for ZANU-PF,” the London-based BMI risk consultancy said.

‘Free of rigging’

Estimated turnout was around 75 per cent before polls closed on Monday evening after a peaceful day of voting. Full results from the elections — presidential, parliamentary and local — are due by Saturday.

At one polling station in the capital Harare, officials counted large piles of ballots using gas lanterns and candles late into the night on Monday.

Electoral workers prepare to dismantle a temporary polling station after the general elections in Harare on Tuesday.—Reuters
Electoral workers prepare to dismantle a temporary polling station after the general elections in Harare on Tuesday.—Reuters

If required, Zimbabwe’s 5.6 million registered voters would be asked to return to the polls to vote in a presidential run-off on Sept 8.

Zimbabwe’s much-criticised election authority declared Tuesday that the vote had been free of rigging — even though the count was not yet completed.

“We are absolutely confident there was no rigging ... we at the Zimbabwean Elec­tion Commission will not steal [the people’s] choice of leaders, we will not subvert their will,” said ZEC chair Priscilla Chigumba.

EU cites ‘shortcomings’

Once-banned European Union election observers, present for the first time in years, said participation appeared high but warned of possible problems in the polling process.

“There are shortcomings that we have to check. We don’t know yet whether it was a pattern,” EU chief observer Elmar Brok told AFP on Monday.

The bloc will deliver a preliminary report on the conduct of the election on Wednesday, as will the Sou­thern African Develo­p­m­e­nt Community (SADC) and the African Union teams.

Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former right-hand man in ZANU-PF, was the clear election front-runner, benefitting from tacit military support, loyal state media and ruling party controls of government resources.

But Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and pastor who performed strongly on the campaign trail, sought to tap into the youth and urban vote.

The new government must tackle mass unemployment and an economy shattered by the seizure of white-owned farms under Mugabe, the collapse of agriculture, hyperinflation and an investment exodus.

Previously solid health and education services are in ruins, and millions have fled abroad to seek work.

Both candidates had vowed to clean up government and attract foreign investment to create jobs after the isolation and systematic corruption of the Mugabe era.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2018

Opinion

Editorial

Disquiet on the western front
Updated 07 Dec, 2022

Disquiet on the western front

IT is very difficult for Pakistan to be delinked from Afghanistan, because of reasons of geography and history.
Fuel from Russia
07 Dec, 2022

Fuel from Russia

THE apparent headway made with Russia for the purchase of its crude oil, petrol and diesel at discounted prices is a...
More women SHOs
07 Dec, 2022

More women SHOs

IT is encouraging to see more employment avenues opening up for women in Pakistan, with an increasing number of...
Is there a plan?
Updated 06 Dec, 2022

Is there a plan?

The ball currently is in Imran's court, but it appears he is stumped as to what to do with it.
Riverfront concerns
06 Dec, 2022

Riverfront concerns

THE door-to-door drive being launched by a group of landowners to mobilise affected communities against what they...
Morality police out
06 Dec, 2022

Morality police out

FOR several months, Iran has been rocked by unprecedented protests, sparked by the death on Sept 16 of Mahsa Amini, ...