Inside Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe election

Why is Monday’s vote in Zimbabwe — the first results of which started to appear Tuesday evening — important for the country and the region?

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: August 2, 2018 9:21:36 am
Inside Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe election Tanks appeared on Harare’s streets after incomplete results showing a big victory for Zanu-PF triggered violent protests Wednesday. AP

Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF had won a majority in Parliament’s lower house by Wednesday evening India time, according to incomplete results announced by the country’s Electoral Commission. While there was no information on the outcome of the presidential election, (a candidate must win more than 50% of the vote, or face a runoff on September 8) on the streets of Harare, supporters of the opposition MDC Alliance had begun clashing with riot police. President Emmerson Mnangagwa — the Zanu-PF candidate for a new term — had tweeted a call for peace, patience and maturity, and for “everyone to desist from provocative declarations and statements”.

Why is Monday’s vote in Zimbabwe — the first results of which started to appear Tuesday evening — important for the country and the region?

The first since Mugabe

This election is the first in decades without Robert Mugabe, 94, Zimbabwe’s ruler for 37 years who once declared he could be removed from power only by God, but who was forced to resign in November last year following moves to impeach him. For many years, Mugabe’s main opponent was Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister from 2009 to 2013, and who contested for President against Mugabe in 2002 and 2008. Following Tsvangirai’s death this February, Monday’s election was fought between 75-year-old Mnangagwa (who succeeded Mugabe as President) and Nelson Chamisa, 40, the new leader of the MDC. Another 21 minor candidates were also in the fray. Fifty-five parties contested the election for Parliament. There were over 56 lakh voters, 43.5% of whom were under age 35.

International scrutiny

Unlike Mugabe, Mnangagwa allowed international and regional observers for the election. This was the first time in 16 years that representatives from the European Union, US and the Commonwealth — countries that the former President thought were hostile to him — monitored a Zimbabwean vote. On Wednesday, the observers were divided in their assessment of the election — the EU delegation said there was an “improved political climate, but un-level playing field and lack of trust” and underlined bias in the media and intimidation of voters, while the African Union team and the Southern African Development Community observers said the elections had been peaceful and lawful, the BBC reported .

Impact on economy

Tawanda Majoni, national coordinator at the media advocacy group Information for Development Trust, told The New York Times that irrespective of the outcome, the vote could potentially help transform Zimbabwe’s economy, as long as the results were not contested. “If the ruling post-Mugabe establishment wins to form a government on its own, the results may be contested, meaning that the resulting government may lack legitimacy among key international powers and aid providers,” Majoni was quoted as saying. On the other hand, “if the opposition wins and the current government, in which the military has a high stake, accepts the outcome, this may also encourage international investors, development agencies and embassies to render substantial economic, social and political support”. Mugabe faced widespread international criticism for alleged electoral fraud, and its struggling economy suffered further as a result of the sanctions it faced.

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