Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa reelected after tense contest

By Nimi Princewill, Shirin Faqiri and Heather Chen, CNN

CNN  —  Zimbabwe’s incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner in the country’s presidential elections on Saturday after securing an absolute majority in a tense presidential contest that was marred by delays.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has announced the 2023 presidential election results. His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner with 2,350,711 votes, consisting 52.6 percent of the vote, followed by Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party who scored 1,906,734, which is 44 percent of the vote,” Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry tweeted on Saturday.

The 80-year-old’s victory extends the Zanu-PF’s decades-long stranglehold on Zimbabwe’s politics, having been the dominant party in the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Chamisa, 45, had been upbeat about victory, and has now rejected the results announced by the electoral body. It’s not immediately known if he will mount a legal challenge.

His party earlier decried the late deployment of voting materials that triggered widespread voting delays and also cited some alleged irregularities in the voting process.

In a statement on Wednesday, the CCC said some of its candidates were omitted from the ballot papers, which in some cases, it added, were printed with the photos of the ruling party’s candidates on CCC’s rolls.

The electoral commission did not respond to those allegations.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Voting continued for a second day in parts of Zimbabwe where polling started behind schedule on Wednesday. A presidential decree extended voting until Thursday in three provinces, including the capital Harare where Chamisa’s party enjoys popular support.

Observers commended the peaceful conduct of the polls but said the election process fell short of many regional and international standards.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) said in a preliminary report released on Friday that “fundamental freedoms were increasingly curtailed” during the elections, adding that “acts of violence and intimidation” resulting in a “climate of fear” were also witnessed during the polls.

Around 40 election monitors were arrested by Zimbabwe’s police Thursday for allegedly co-ordinating the release of results ahead of the final tally of the ballots.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the arrests occurred “after the Zimbabwe NGO Forum released a report detailing irregularities that they had observed on election day.”

This was the second election in Zimbabwe since authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe was deposed by the military in 2017.

Mnangagwa, nicknamed “The Crocodile,” succeeded Mugabe after helping to orchestrate the coup that ousted him. He retained his grip on power the following year when he beat Chamisa in a hotly contested presidential vote.

In that election, in 2018, Mnangagwa won 51 percent of the total ballots, while Chamisa took 44 percent. The results were disputed by Chamisa, who described the election as “fraudulent and illegal” and mounted a legal challenge. However, Mnangagwa was sworn in after Zimbabwe’s constitutional court upheld his victory.

Easy to predict

Analysts said the outcome of the latest election was easier to predict. “I’m not sure that it will be a game-changing election,” said Eldred Masunungure, an expert in politics and governance at the University of Zimbabwe. “I don’t see any signals or any indications that it is a watershed election,” he told CNN ahead of the Wednesday polls.

Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party also told CNN it expected to win by a landslide. “We are going to wallop the opposition,” its national spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa said in the buildup to the election.

“It will be a landslide against the opposition,” he added.

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