Thursday 13 December 2018

Anxious Zimbabwe awaits presidential results as EU mission notes election flaws

Zanu-PF has won a majority of seats in parliament, the electoral commission said, and the country awaits the results of the presidential vote.

Police patrol outside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)
Police patrol outside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka

The European Union observer mission has said “a truly level playing field was not achieved” in Zimbabwe’s election as the country awaits the results of the presidential vote.

The EU mission pointed out the “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media” but said Monday’s election was largely peaceful in a break from the past.

The assessments of Western and other observers, many of whom returned to Zimbabwe after being barred for nearly two decades, are crucial in the possible lifting of international sanctions on the southern African nation.

The EU mission said this is a preliminary statement and more is expected on how the election results are handled and announced.

This is the first vote in Zimbabwe since the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

Angry opposition supporters have gathered outside Zimbabwe’s electoral commission, and were met by riot police, as the country awaits the results of Monday’s presidential election.

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Police block dozens of opposition party supporters from entering the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

The ruling Zanu-PF party has won a majority of seats in parliament, the electoral commission said.

Zanu-PF won 109 seats while the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party won 41 in the 210-seat House of Assembly, with two seats won by smaller parties and 58 seats yet to be declared.

The commission has said it would announce the results of the presidential race, pitting President Emmerson Mnangagwa against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, only after all the votes have come in from across the country.

Observers from the Southern African Development Community called the elections “a political watershed in Zimbabwe’s history” but with some shortcomings, urging anyone with grievances to refrain from violence.

The opposition has alleged irregularities, saying voting results were not posted outside one-fifth of polling stations as required by law.

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Armed riot police patrol outside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices in Harare (Tsvangirayi MukwazhiAP)

Mr Mnangagwa’s government, meanwhile, has accused Mr Chamisa and his supporters of inciting “violence” by already declaring he had won the election.

“Let me also warn such individuals and groups that no-one is above the law,” home affairs minister Obert Mpofu said.

Security forces “will remain on high alert and continue to monitor the security situation”.

The possibility of confrontation was an unnerving reminder of the tensions that pervade the southern African nation, debilitated by Mr Mugabe’s long rule.

The 94-year-old former leader had been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980 until he was forced to resign in November after the military and ruling party turned on him.

Mr Mnangagwa, a former deputy president who fell out with Mr Mugabe and then took over from him, has said his showing in the presidential polls was “extremely positive” while urging people to wait for official results.

Mr Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who leads the opposition MDC party, has gone further, saying his own count shows that he won the election and that he is ready to form the next government.

“We won the popular vote & will defend it!” Mr Chamisa tweeted on Wednesday.

Zimbabweans desperately hope the peaceful vote will lift them out of economic and political stagnation after decades of Mr Mugabe’s rule, but the country is haunted by a history of electoral violence and manipulation that means trust is scarce.

While the electoral commission has five days from the end of voting to release the final tally, the national mood was growing anxious partly because unofficial results are already swirling on social media.

The opposition’s mood had dampened from Tuesday, when dozens of supporters gathered at their headquarters and celebrated in the belief that they had won the presidential election based on results they said they collected from agents in the field.

As they danced to music blasting from speakers set up on a truck, police with water cannon circulated nearby.

Press Association

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