Sunday 21 October 2018

Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa wins first post-Mugabe election

Mr Mnangagwa received 50.8% of the vote.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

By Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has won Monday’s election as the ruling party maintained control of the government in the first vote since the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

The opposition is almost certain to challenge the results in the courts or in the streets. Mr Mnangagwa received 50.8% of the vote while main opposition challenger Nelson Chamisa received 44.3%.

While election day was peaceful in a break from the past, deadly violence on Wednesday against people protesting alleged vote-rigging reminded many Zimbabweans of the decades of military-backed repression under Mr Mugabe.

Western election observers who were banned in previous votes have expressed concern at the military’s “excessive” force in the capital, Harare. Their assessments of the election are crucial to the lifting of international sanctions on a country whose economy collapsed years ago.

Shortly before the election commission’s announcement, a man who said he was the chief agent with Mr Chamisa’s opposition alliance claimed that they had not signed the election results and rejected them. Police asked him to step aside.

Commission chair Priscilla Chigumba urged the country to “move on” with the hopeful spirit of election day and beyond the “blemishes” of Wednesday’s chaos, saying: “May God bless this nation and its people.”

Earlier on Thursday, the ruling party and the main opposition group both claimed victory, deepening a political crisis that was worsened by Wednesday’s violence in Harare as the military swept in with gunfire to disperse opposition supporters alleging vote-rigging.

The death toll rose to six, with 14 injured, police said, and 18 people were arrested at the offices of the main opposition party amid tensions over a vote that was supposed to restore trust in Zimbabwe after decades of Mr Mugabe’s rule.

While Mr Mnangagwa and the ruling party accused the opposition of inciting the violence, the opposition, human rights activists and international election observers condemned the “excessive” force used against protesters and appealed to all sides to exercise restraint.

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Zimbabwean’s main opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The international election observers also urged the commission to reveal the presidential results as soon as possible, saying delays would increase speculation about vote-rigging.

Mr Mnangagwa called for an “independent investigation” into Wednesday’s violence, saying those responsible “should be identified and brought to justice”.

Mr Mnangagwa was a longtime Mugabe confidante before his firing in November led his allies in the military to step in and push Mr Mugabe to resign after 37 years in power. Thousands of jubilant Zimbabweans celebrated in the streets of Harare, greeting the military with selfies and cheers.

Since taking office, the 75-year-old Mr Mnangagwa has tried to recast himself as a voice of reform, declaring that Zimbabwe was “open for business” and inviting long-banned Western election observers to observe Monday’s vote, which he pledged would be free and fair.

Press Association

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