Mnangagwa Declared Winner in Zimbabwe, Opposition Calls Election ‘Coup’

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's 'crocodile' president
AFP/MIKE HUTCHINGS

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission released the results of the presidential election late on Thursday and declared incumbent interim President Emmerson Mnangagwa the winner by just enough to avoid a runoff against challenger Nelson Chamisa.

Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party immediately rejected the results as “fraudulent” and accused Mnangagwa of staging a “coup.”

“These figures, as far as we are concerned, are fake and illegal because they were violating the law, the procedures, and the rules,” declared MDC official Morgan Komichi, who appeared at a press conference on Friday with Chamisa spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda to reject the outcome of the election.

Komichi explained that one of MDC’s complaints is the lack of “verification” for the results. The big story in Zimbabwe since the election has been the reluctance of the ZEC to post the presidential outcome, and MDC itself has been outspoken in accusing the electoral commission of using the extra time to doctor the results in Mnangagwa’s favor, but Komichi was essentially saying the results should have been kept confidential even longer until all of the polling agents signed off on them.

“We will be guided by the law. My president is going to address the nation. He is going to give the direction,” Komichi said. By “my president” he meant Chamisa, who has been proclaiming himself the true winner of the election ever since the polls closed.

According to the ZEC, Mnangagwa won with 50.8 percent to Chamisa’s 44.3 percent, a difference of roughly a quarter million votes. It will probably come as cold comfort to MDC that Mnangagwa’s former patron, deposed dictator Robert Mugabe, won with ten percent more of the vote when he ran his last election against legendary dissident and MDC founding father Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February. Mnangagwa and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party did much better in previous elections as well.

Chamisa had a slight lead after the first four provinces were counted but it vanished as the rest of the results were tabulated, prompting the MDC to mutter about ballot box stuffing.

“We have won this one together. No amount of results manipulation will alter your will,” Chamisa told his supporters on Wednesday.

Chamisa repeated his allegations on Friday, describing the election results as “corrupted” and denouncing Mnangagwa’s claim of victory as “a coup against the people’s will.”

Friday saw no repeat of the violence in Harare on Wednesday that is now said to have killed six people. On Wednesday, truckloads of government troops were prowling through the streets of the capital city, yelling at people through loudspeakers to “behave” themselves. On Friday, the trucks were back, but the loudspeaker message was, “Zimbabwe is open for business. We are here to protect you. Feel free to walk and open your business. All is well, fear not.”

Chamisa can challenge the election results in court under Zimbabwean law but will face a high standard of proof for his charges. He has claimed to possess hard evidence of ballot tampering by ZANU-PF loyalists.

“Mr. Mugabe was at least sophisticated,” he said of Mnangagwa’s alleged election theft. “This was pedestrian. The numbers they presented didn’t even add up.”

Mnangagwa praised the vote as a “free, fair, and credible election, as we have always promised” and celebrated the “unprecedented flowering of freedom and democracy in our beloved homeland,” even as Chamisa and his aides were pronouncing last rites over democracy.

Mnangagwa did concede riot police acted improperly when they broke up an MDC press conference on Friday and chased away journalists. Mnangagwa agreed such actions “have no place in our society” and promised an urgent investigation.

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