Thursday 15 November 2018

Anxious Zimbabwe awaits presidential election results

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

A police officer patrols outside the Election Results Centre at a local hotel in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)
A police officer patrols outside the Election Results Centre at a local hotel in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

By Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press

Hundreds of angry opposition supporters outside Zimbabwe’s electoral commission were met by riot police firing tear gas as the country awaited the results of Monday’s presidential election.

The European Union election observer mission expressed “serious concerns” as Western and other observers gave their first assessments of whether the vote, while peaceful, was free and fair – crucial for lifting international sanctions on the once-prosperous country.

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission said it would say “sometime tomorrow” when it can start announcing the results of the race pitting President Emmerson Mnangagwa against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, even though it said most of the results “are here with us”.

Agents for all 23 candidates have to verify them first, it said.

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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 won a majority of seats in parliament, the electoral commission said.

The EU observer mission said “a truly level playing field was not achieved” in the election, pointing out the “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media”.

It said the election – the first after the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe – was largely peaceful in a break from the past but wondered why presidential votes were counted first but were being announced last.

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

Opposition supporters in the capital Harare denounced the government and tore down a billboard with an image of Mr Mnangagwa and his campaign slogan: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

The riot police backed by armoured vehicles with water cannon did not move in to break up the demonstration.

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

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

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

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 Movement for Democratic Change party, has claimed victory based on results supporters said they collected from agents in the field.

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

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.

Press Association

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