ZANU-PF leads Zimbabwe vote as first election results are released
Zimbabwe’s ruling party took an early lead in the first election of the post-Robert Mugabe era, initial results showed.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won six parliamentary seats, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials including chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba said on Tuesday in the capital, Harare.
Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secured one seat, she said.
With the campaign and balloting having largely been peaceful, the focus now shifts to the credibility of the process and whether the results are accepted, key pillars needed to rebuild the southern African nation after two decades of decline under Mugabe’s rule.
The jury is still out on whether the contest was fair, with observers noting a number of flaws and the opposition alleging there had been a deliberate attempt to frustrate and suppress urban voters.
The tally for the presidential ballot will be announced once results from all provinces are received and verified, Chigumba said. Under Zimbabwean law, the final results must be released by August 4. More than 5.6-million people registered to vote at 10,985 polling stations for the president, 350 lawmakers and local government representatives.
Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who took control of the MDC in February after the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai that month, said that based on his party’s own count of unofficial results from more than 90% of polling stations, the MDC was “winning resoundingly” and ready to form the next government.
Tendai Biti, a former finance minister and a leader of the seven-party alliance that backed Chamisa, told reporters the opposition could not account for 21% of the tally sheets that by law were supposed to be posted outside polling stations, but “from what we have received, it’s clear we’ve won”.
The ruling party forced Mugabe to resign in November, when the military briefly seized control of the country and replaced him with Mnangagwa, 75, his former deputy and spy chief. Whoever wins the vote will have to administer a broke Treasury that is unable to service its loans or take out new ones, leaving little scope to improve government services, rebuild crumbling transport links and meet a plethora of other election pledges
Still, the country does hold some trump cards, according to Mark Bohlund, an Africa economist at Bloomberg Economics.
“Zimbabweans remain among the best-educated in sub-Saharan Africa and its infrastructure is still among the better, despite a lack of investment over the past decades,” he said. “This gives it a strong platform to reignite economic growth, if it can get the right economic policies in place and improve the rule of law.”
A first step will be the smooth conclusion of the elections.
Concerns still remain about the independence of the ZEC amid executive interference in key electoral processes.Andrew Makoni
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an association of 34 civil rights and religious organizations, said while the political environment was calm and peaceful, the ruling party used state resources to campaign, used aid to force people to vote for it and enjoyed more favorable media coverage. It also found the final voters’ roll was released too late to analyse it, the electoral commission dispatched more voting kits to rural areas than urban ones and the electoral laws hadn’t been harmonised with the constitution.
“Concerns still remain about the independence of the ZEC amid executive interference in key electoral processes,” Andrew Makoni, the chairman of the network, which deployed about 6,500 observers, told reporters in Harare on Tuesday. “At this juncture, we have not yet made assessment as to whether this was a free and fair election.”
Chigumba said voting proceeded peacefully and went well overall, with turnout ranging from 60% to 80% in areas where the data was available. She assured Zimbabweans that the vote would not be rigged.
“We will not subvert the will of the people. Whatever the result is is exactly what will be announced,” Chigumba told reporters in Harare. “We have not received any official complaints from any political party.”
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.