Friday 24 January 2020

Zimbabwe recovery resting on clean vote

INCUMBENT: Mnangagwa. Picture: AP
INCUMBENT: Mnangagwa. Picture: AP

Farai Mutsaka

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a "thunderous victory" as he and main challenger Nelson Chamisa rallied supporters for the final time ahead of tomorrow's election in a country seeking to move past decades of economic and political paralysis.

The vote will be a first for the southern African nation: Long-time leader Robert Mugabe will not be on the ballot after resigning in November following a military takeover and pressure from the ruling Zanu-PF party that once backed him.

Most of Zimbabwe's five million voters grew up under Mugabe's 37-year rule.

Supporters of 75-year-old Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe deputy, and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition MDC party, rallied yesterday in the capital Harare.

A credible vote could help Zimbabwe shed its long-time status as a global pariah and spur recovery for its collapsed economy, while a contentious election would prevent the lifting of years of international sanctions.

"We have opened the country to the world," Mnangagwa declared yesterday, claiming hundreds of investors had poured in to the country since he took office with billions of dollars in commitments.

In an interview last Friday, Chamisa alleged Zimbabwe's electoral commission is biased in favour of Mnangagwa, which the president and the commission deny. Chamisa vowed to hold peaceful protests if the election is flawed.

Past elections under Mugabe were marred by violence and intimidation against the opposition and by alleged vote-rigging. Foreign observers were shunned.

"We are aware of the issues that have been raised by opposition parties, however we hope that the elections will be free and fair," US Senator Jeff Flake told reporters.

Concerns have focused on the military's influence, especially in rural areas, and on the lack of transparency in the voters' roll.

When asked if Mnangagwa was better than Mugabe, Flake replied: "No comment. That's pretty low-bar."

Mnangagwa himself remains under US sanctions.

© Press Association

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