Showdown looms in Zim election
There is a deliberate delay in announcing the results
Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party on Tuesday claimed victory in the country’s historic elections, setting the scene for a showdown with the ruling Zanu-PF that has held power since independence in 1980.
Senior MDC official Tendai Biti said party leader Nelson Chamisa had won the presidential race, and alleged that the authorities were delaying the publication of results.
“The results show beyond reasonable doubt that we have won the election and that the next president of Zimbabwe is Nelson Chamisa,” Biti told a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Harare.
“We are however seriously concerned about evidence of interference ... there is a deliberate delay in announcing the results.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, has also said he was confident of victory in Zimbabwe’s first election since former leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in November after 37 years in power.
The rival claims pointed to a contested result, raising the prospect of fraud allegations and a possible run-off vote in September – required if no candidate wins at least 50% of ballots in the first round.
Analysts have said it was unclear whether the country’s generals, who ousted Mugabe and ushered Mnangagwa into office, would accept a win by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Defeat for the ruling party would likely lead “to a denunciation of the election by the Mnangagwa administration and the potential for the military to intervene to secure power for Zanu-PF”, the London-based BMI risk consultancy said.
Estimated turnout was about 75% before polls closed on Monday evening after a peaceful day of voting.
Early results from the elections – presidential, parliamentary and local – were expected on Tuesday, and full results are due by Saturday.
If required, Zimbabwe’s 5.6 million registered voters would be asked to return to the polls to vote in a presidential run-off on September 8.
Zimbabwe’s much-criticised election authority declared Tuesday that the vote had been free of rigging – even though the count was not yet completed.
Once-banned European Union election observers said participation appeared high but warned of possible problems in the polling process.
“There are shortcomings that we have to check. We don’t know yet whether it was a pattern,” EU chief observer Elmar Brok said.