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Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa has been re-elected as leader of the troubled southern African nation after a vote that international observers said was marred by irregularities.
Mnangagwa won more than 52 per cent of the vote in elections held on Wednesday and Thursday to secure a second term, versus 44 per cent for Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change, Zimbabwe’s election commission said on Saturday night.
The credibility of the second election held in Zimbabwe since the fall of Robert Mugabe, the late dictator, was a key test of whether Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF would be able to access international financing to clear debts and revive an economy wrecked by currency collapse.
The poll was undermined by the election commission’s failure to deliver ballots to opposition strongholds, which forced voting to be extended to a second day, and by government attacks on local and international observers who pointed to signs of rigging and intimidation.
Chamisa’s party indicated it was preparing to contest the vote after it said the official result had “glaring” discrepancies with tallies that were published at polling stations. “We will not roll over and accept fictitious lies,” it added.
The party has been conducting a parallel tabulation of votes based on the polling station records. It has not yet published the tally in full. “This endeavour is firmly rooted in hard evidence collected from all regions of Zimbabwe,” the party said.
The election’s fallout has also sparked a rare rift between Mnangagwa’s government and southern Africa’s main regional body, which has often been seen as a rubber stamp for flawed Zimbabwean votes in the past.
This time observers from the Southern African Development Community said the vote was mostly peaceful but raised several concerns, including on the ballot delivery delays, voter intimidation and state media bias towards Zanu-PF.
The SADC secretariat on Saturday criticised “crude, scurrilous and misleading” attacks on the group’s observers in Zimbabwe’s media, which is dominated by state outlets.
Mnangagwa’s officials have accused the SADC observers, led by Zambia’s former vice-president Nevers Mumba, of supporting the opposition.
The government also released dozens of domestic observers, who were arrested just after the vote, following criticism from the African Union’s observers.
“No doubt [Mnangagwa’s] legitimacy is going to be an issue at home, but abroad he will likely be accepted by his peers in the African Union and SADC outside some of the issues they raised,” said McDonald Lewanika, Zimbabwe country director for the non-governmental organisation Accountability Lab.
Parliamentary election results indicate Zanu-PF remains in control of the legislature but was denied a two-thirds majority by Chamisa’s party.