Zimbabwe’s national election commission began publishing the results of the nation’s first elections since the removal of dictator Robert Mugabe on Tuesday, as both presidential contenders expressed confidence on social media that they would prevail.
Monday’s election pit interim president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who helped oust Mugabe after being removed from the vice presidency last year, of the ruling Zanu-PF party against opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) leader Nelson Chamisa.
At press time, the Zimbabwe Election Commision (ZEC) began announced results from local elections but has yet to reveal who won the presidential race.
According to New Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF has secured six of the seven parliamentary seats whose results have been announced so far. Authorities are waiting to reveal the results for 210 seats, the newspaper noted, so the early positive results for Zanu-PF may not necessarily reflect the national majority opinion.
The ZEC warned that results would be slow in coming and that anything announced through unofficial means via social media was likely to be a hoax. ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told reporters Tuesday morning that the commission, contra to early complaints by the MDC-T, was “absolutely confident that there was no cheating and we are absolutely confident that there was no rigging,” but that this did not mean that some nefarious influences may yet attempt to disseminate false election results while the commission was still counting votes. Chigumba noted that turnout was over 70 percent, significantly higher than during the Mugabe era.
In an ominous note that may hurt both candidates, the ZEC announced that it had evidence that “at least two” presidential candidates were illegally campaigning after the official end of the campaign season. The Associated Press (AP) notes that Chamisa and Mnangagwa both issued campaign statements on Sunday, after the cutoff time. It remains unclear whether an investigation would damage either’s chances to win.
As the nation awaited results, but Mnangagwa and Chamisa took to Twitter to declare that they expect to win the race. Mnangagwa said the Zanu-PF members gathering information were “extremely positive” that the news would be to their favor, while Chamisa more directly claimed that his party was “winning resoundingly.”
Good morning Zimbabwe. I am delighted by the high turnout and citizen engagement so far. The information from our reps on the ground is extremely positive! Waiting patiently for official results as per the constitution.
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) July 31, 2018
Winning resoundingly…We now have results from the majority of the over 10 000 polling stations. We’ve done exceedingly well. Awaiting ZEC to perform their constitutional duty to officially announce the people’s election results and we are ready to form the next gvt.#Godisinit
— Nelson Chamisa (@nelsonchamisa) July 31, 2018
The margin of how much the leader wins by may be even more important than who comes out on top. According to Zimbabwe’s election law, a candidate must win by over 50 percent to secure the presidency. Less than a majority forces a run-off vote between the top two candidates, which would occur on September 8.
While the election was the first without Mugabe, 94, on the ballot, the former dictator’s presence in the race was felt. Mugabe, who has kept mostly to himself since the coup that ousted him, stated publicly while voting that he could no longer vote for his own Zanu-PF party, complaining of his ouster and claiming that his lavish pension was not as much as he would like it. He did so while voting alongside his wife, “Gucci” Grace Mugabe, who many observers believe Mugabe was grooming to be a successor. Mugabe did not openly endorse Chamisa, who spent decades working to remove Mugabe from power.
Mnangagwa responded to Mugabe’s comments by celebrating that Zimbabwe “is enjoying democratic space which has never been experienced before,” thanks to the military and his own coalition removing Mugabe from power. An inevitable result of creating democratic space, he argued, was that “people have the freedom to express their views both positive and negative.”
“It is his right to express his mind because there is that democratic space in existence in the country,” Mnangagwa insisted of Mugabe, according to New Zimbabwe.