Zimbabwe’s main opposition party said it was well ahead in the first election of the post-Robert Mugabe era and it’s ready to form the next government, as unofficial results began streaming in, Bloomberg reports.
With official tallies set to start being announced on Tuesday, the focus now shifts to whether the vote was credible and the results are accepted, key pillars needed to rebuild the southern African nation’s international reputation and economy that was laid to waste under Mugabe’s 37-year rule. The jury is still out on whether the contest was fair, with observers raising initial concerns and the opposition alleging there’d been a deliberate attempt to frustrate and suppress urban voters.
Robert Mugabe arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in Highfield, Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 30.
The front-runners for the presidency are the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, Mugabe’s one-time deputy and successor, and his main rival Nelson Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and church pastor who heads the Movement for Democratic Change.
The MDC’s campaign made headway over the past two months, tightening the race “significantly,” and if that trend continued victory could go either way, opinion polls conducted by Research Company Afrobarometer show.
Chamisa said that based on his party’s own tally of unofficial results from more than 90 percent of the 10,985 polling stations, the MDC was “winning resoundingly.” The results still need to be verified and collated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
“We’ve done exceedingly well,” Chamisa said on his Twitter account. “Awaiting ZEC to perform their constitutional duty to officially announce the people’s election results.”
Photographs of tallies posted outside some polling stations and shared on Twitter backed up Chamisa’s assertion, but aren’t indicative of the final result because they mainly came from urban areas, which are traditional opposition strongholds.
More than 5.6 million people registered to vote for the president, 350 lawmakers and local government representatives in Monday’s election. Under Zimbabwean law, results must be announced by Aug. 4.
All you need to know about Zimbabwe’s elections
The next ruler will have to administer an economy in meltdown after two decades of misrule and corruption under Mugabe, who the ruling party forced to resign in November, and a broke Treasury that’s unable to service its loans or take out new ones. That will leave little scope to improve government services, rebuild crumbling transport links and meet a plethora of other election pledges.
“Investors are not necessarily looking at who wins, but how they win,” Neville Mandimika, an analyst at FirstRand Ltd.’s Rand Merchant Bank in Johannesburg, said by phone.
More than 6,100 local and international observers were accredited to scrutinize the vote. There were no immediate reports of violence, said Andrew Makoni, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an association of 34 civil rights and religious organizations.
Elmar Brok, chief observer for the European Union’s observer mission, told reporters in Harare on Monday that voting proceeded smoothly in some areas, but was “totally disorganized” in others, and it was unclear whether this was a coincidence or bad organization.
Priscilla Chigumba, the electoral commission’s chairwoman, said voting proceeded peacefully and went well overall, with turnout ranging from 60 percent to 75 percent in provinces where the data was available. About 1 percent of people were turned away for various reasons, she told reporters in Harare late Monday after polling stations closed.
The Election Resource Center, a pro-democracy and research group, said the voters’ roll used at polling stations was finalized on June 1 and printed on July 4, and was different to the one that the electoral commission had circulated in advance — which explained why a “significant number” of people couldn’t cast ballots.
Mnangagwa has insisted the election will be credible.
“I urge all citizens and candidates to exercise responsibility and restraint by waiting patiently for ZEC to declare the official outcome,” he said on Twitter. “I am delighted by the high turnout and citizen engagement.”