World News

Zimbabwe election: Rivals both confident of victory ahead of initial results

Posted July 31, 2018 11:46 a.m. EDT

Election results were being tallied on Tuesday in Zimbabwe, a day after more than two-thirds of the nation's registered voters cast their ballots in the country's first presidential poll since the end of Robert Mugabe's nearly four decade rule.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) began announcing results for candidates at a local level Tuesday, but said it would only announce the presidential result once all of the 10,985 polling stations had verified their results.

The vote was forecast to be a close race between current President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa, who both hinted they were ahead on Tuesday.

Mnangagwa, 75, who took power after helping to orchestrate a de facto coup against Mugabe in November, said he was receiving "extremely positive" information on the election. While Chamisa, 40, said his party was poised for victory.

ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told reporters in Harare on Tuesday that the Commission was confident there was no cheating or rigging in the largely peaceful vote. Observers present to monitor the election for the first time in years, including 20 teams from the United States Embassy in Harare, have not yet shared their assessments.

Read more: Shadow of Mugabe looms over Zimbabwe election

Commenting on Monday's election, former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Johnnie Carson, who is a co-leader of the international mission of election observers, said: "While election day had a large turnout, and was generally well-organized and peaceful, some problems were observed. Those election day problems -- combined with the issues in the pre-election period -- leave us concerned about the resolution of this process. We don't yet know the final election outcome."

The ZEC has until August 4 to release final results. If no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote, a run-off will be held on September 8.

Tendai Biti, senior MDC official and former finance minister, says he has put the ZEC on notice, calling for the commission to release results.

"We will not accept this election to be stolen, we will protect our votes," Biti told CNN. "We will exercise our constitutional rights to peacefully protest."

Police with water cannon were out patrolling in Harare on Tuesday afternoon, preparing for potential protests or celebrations.

Mnangagwa and Chamisa confident of win

"I am delighted by the high turnout and citizen engagement so far. The information from our reps on the ground is extremely positive!" Mnangagwa said on Twitter Tuesday.

Known as "the crocodile" for his political cunning and longevity, Mnangagwa has attempted to rebrand the ruling Zanu-PF party, pledging to heal divisions and rebuild the country. But he is still widely considered to be Mugabe's man given that he worked so closely with him for more than 40 years, first as his special assistant during the 1977 liberation war, and later as security minister and justice minister.

Chamisa -- the country's youngest ever presidential candidate -- who took over MDC leadership following the death of its founder Morgan Tsvangirai in February tweeted on Tuesday that his party had done "exceedingly well."

During the campaign, Chamisa aimed to appeal to younger voters with promises of electoral reform, tax cuts and jobs.

While his message may strike a chord, he does not have the same level of backing from the security forces or military who oversaw Mugabe's departure.

But both men face a mighty challenge to help the country recover from the dire economic situation which was inflicted upon it by Mugabe's rule.