Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa Wins Re-election

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was re-elected for a second and final five-year term late Saturday, according to results published far earlier than expected after another tumultuous election in the southern African country with a history of violent and disputed elections.

Within minutes of Mnangagwa being declared the winner, an opposition party spokesperson declared that the results will be “hastily assembled without proper verification.”

Mnangagwa’s victory ensured that the ZANU-PF party kept governmental power for the entire 43-year existence of Zimbabwe, since the country was renamed following independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Zimbabwe has had just two leaders in that time, long-ruling autocrat Robert Mugabe and Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, who earned the nickname “the crocodile” during his time as a guerrilla fighter, received 52.6% of the votes cast in the midweek election, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in a late-night declaration in Harare. Nelson Chamisa, the 45-year-old primary opposition leader, received 44% of the vote, according to the commission.

The results were released around 11.30 p.m., about 48 hours after polls closed.

They likely will be closely scrutinized after international election observers raised questions over the environment in the buildup to the vote and pointed to an atmosphere of intimidation against Chamisa’s supporters.

The observers said they had specific concerns over a ruling party affiliate organization called Forever Associates of Zimbabwe that they said set up tables at polling stations and took details of people walking into voting booths. The head of the African Union mission, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said the FAZ activities should be declared “criminal offenses.”

Dzens of local vote monitors also were arrested and taken to court on allegations of subversion that government critics said were trumped-up charges.

And there were problems with the actual vote.

The election had been due to be held on just Wednesday, but voting was extended to Thursday after delays with the printing of ballot papers. Results of the presidential election came a surprising two days after voting closed when the final figures were only expected on Monday or even Tuesday considering the election ran over by a day.

“We reject any results hastily assembled without proper verification,” said Promise Mkwananzi, a spokesperson for Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change Party. “We will advise citizens on the next steps as the situation develops.”

The result will now extend ZANU-PF”s rule to nearly a half century with Mnangagwa’s victory. ZANU-PF also retained its parliamentary majority in the election. Mnangagwa won just over 2.3 million of the 4.4 million votes cast. Chamisa received 1.9 million, the electoral commission said.

“This is a very happy occasion indeed,” said Ziyambi Ziyambi, an election agent for Mnangagwa and a Cabinet minister. “Zimbabweans have shown confidence in our president and ZANU-PF.”

Mnangagwa was a vice president under Mugabe before replacing his former ally after a coup in 2017. Mnangagwa then won a disputed election by a razor-thin margin against Chamisa in 2018, a result that caused unrest and deaths on the streets.

Hundreds of armed police with water cannons guarded the national results center ahead of Saturday’s announcement of the 2023 results. It was the site of deadly violence following the previous election five years ago, when military killed six protesters over delays in revealing presidential election results.

Voting was extended into Thursday due to difficulties in providing vote papers in Harare and other major areas, prompting Mnangagwa to extend the poll by a day. Voters slept outside polling places in opposition strongholds in order to cast their ballots.

Prior to the election, Chamisa claimed in an interview with The Associated Press that police had broken up his party’s rallies and that his followers were frequently intimidated and threatened with violence by ruling party supporters.

According to international human rights organizations, ZANU-PF is cracking down on opposition officials and supporters. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused Mnangagwa’s administration of using the police and the courts to quiet opposition as tensions rose owing to a currency crisis, a rapid increase in food costs, a deteriorating public health system, and a lack of formal jobs.

Zimbabwe is renowned for having one of the world’s worst economic meltdowns, when hyperinflation in 2007-2009 led to the country abandoning its currency.

Many people in the country of 15 million are sure to view the result with suspicion, although the opposition CCC party didn’t immediately say what its next move would be.

Streets in Harare that would normally be bustling with late-night vendors were empty as people were digesting the results.

“It’s done. It never changes,” said Gerald Chosawa, a security guard at a grocery store. “I had some hope.”

“Now it’s better to prepare to join the others who have left the country. That’s the best option.”

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