Fifteen presidential candidates including President Emmerson Mnangagwa had by close of business Thursday filed their nomination papers to contest in Zimbabwe’s July 30 elections.
Several more presidential candidates were still expected to register with the Nomination Court which sat well into Thursday night.
Nomination court officer Japhet Murenje announced the list of 15 successful candidates and said more will be announced when they finish processing the papers.
Among the 15 presidential candidates are Mnangagwa’s main challenger Nelson Chamisa, the 40-year-old leader of the main opposition MDC Alliance.
Other notables are former Zimbabwe vice president and leader of the opposition National People’s Party Joice Mujuru, leader of the splinter MDC-T Thokozani Khupe and former cabinet minister in former President Robert Mugabe’s government Nkosana Moyo.
Leader of the National Constitutional Assembly and constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku also filed his papers.
Famous stone sculpturer, Brian Taurai Mteki also filed his papers to stand as an independent while several others are little known candidates.
The number of presidential aspirants is arguably one of the biggest in Zimbabwe’s history but is a drastic reduction from the more than 100 political parties that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had said exist as many failed to register.
Mnangagwa’s papers were filed by his election agent and justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi who immediately declared that the ruling party was ready for the polls.
Mnangagwa becomes the first presidential candidate for the ruling party after former President Robert Mugabe resigned in November last year amid a military intervention, which ended his 37 years of stay in power.
Ziyambi said the high number of candidates wishing to contest the presidential poll was a sign of the opening up of the democratic space in Zimbabwe.
“I think we have opened up the democratic space and everyone is excited. They feel that they can enter the race and contest which is good. In any democracy you should allow people to freely express themselves and contest,” he told reporters after filing Mnangagwa’s papers.
The nomination courts sat countrywide Thursday to receive papers of candidates that will contest in the presidential, National Assembly and council elections.