Harare, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has declared President Emmerson Mnangagwa the winner of its first post-Mugabe presidential election. The opposition rejected the results because they couldn’t verify them.
Mnangagwa received 50.8 percent of the vote while main opposition challenger Nelson Chamisa received 44.3 percent, the electoral commission said.
The southern African nation of Zimbabwe held its presidential election on Monday – the first since Robert Mugabe was ousted from power following 37 years in charge.
Polling closed Monday night in Zimbabwe with election authorities reporting high voter turnout throughout the country.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) commissioner Qubani Moyo said voting went on smoothly and peacefully around the country, with vote counting expected to start soon after closing of polls at 7 p.m.
“We have received positive feedback in terms of high turnout in provinces. People voted in peace and tranquility and we had very few incidences or anomalies being recorded in the voting process,” Moyo said.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. with long queues characterizing most polling stations in an election in which voters were electing the president, members of parliament and local government representatives.
Mnangagwa cast his ballot Monday morning in Kwekwe, in his home province of Midlands.
His main rival Chamisa also cast his vote in the capital Harare.
Mnangagwa told reporters soon after casting his vote that Zimbabwe was enjoying an unprecedented democratic space.
He also said former president Robert Mugabe was entitled to express his views.
Mugabe, who resigned in November last year following a military intervention, said Sunday he will vote for the opposition, dumping the ruling ZANU-PF party which he founded in 1963.
“I can assure you that this country is enjoying democratic space which has never been experienced before. The former president has his right to express his views,” Mnangagwa said.
Mugabe, whom was accompanied by his wife Grace and daughter Bona Chikore, cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Harare.
Several people interviewed by reporters said they hoped that the elections would usher in a new era where the economy thrives and Zimbabweans enjoy a higher quality of life.
A record 23 presidential candidates were cleared to run for office, but the main battle unfolded between just two – incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
Mnangagwa, who came to power after Mugabe’s ousting, was the latter’s long-standing ally, but the former leader has not voiced any support for the current president. Mnangagwa, 75, reportedly seeks to deepen and develop ties with Russia and China and is expected to win 40 percent of the vote, according to pollsters.
His main rival Chamisa is 40 and, if elected, would have become Zimbabwe’s youngest-ever president. This candidate is pro-American, travelling to the US alongside fellow politicians from the MDC Alliance to meet State Department officials and members of Congress at the end of last year.
Zimbabwe’s president says he is “humbled” by his win.
“Though we may have been divided at the polls, we are united in our dreams,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter.
“This is a new beginning. Let us join hands, in peace, unity & love, & together build a new Zimbabwe for all!” Mnangagwa tweeted, after a week that began with peaceful voting Monday but spiraled into deadly violence in the capital Wednesday as the military fired on protesters.
Shortly before the election commission’s announcement, Morgen Komichi, the chief agent for Chamisa’s opposition alliance, took the stage and said his party “totally rejects” the results and said he had not signed the election results. Police escorted him from the room.
Later Komichi said the elections were “fraudulent” and “everything has been done illegally.” He said he had refused an electoral commission request to sign papers certifying Mnangagwa’s win.
“We’re not part of it,” said Komichi, adding that the opposition would be challenging the election in the courts.
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: “May God bless this nation and its people.”
With the military still deployed in Harare, the capital’s streets were quiet following the announcement of Mnangagwa’s victory.
The signs that Mnangagwa’s election will be disputed appears to deepen 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 Mugabe’s rule.
Mnangagwa called for an “independent investigation” into Wednesday’s violence, saying those responsible “should be identified and brought to justice.”
While Monday’s election has been widely judged as peaceful with a high turnout, the deadly violence that erupted on Wednesday brought back chilly memories of decades of repression under Mugabe.
It was a reminder, as opposition leader Chamisa declared Thursday, that “’We have removed Mugabe but not Mugabe-ism.”
The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the streets of the capital since Mugabe’s resignation. Some Harare residents expressed frustration and exhaustion at the dramatic change from November’s exuberant expression of hope to the current tensions.