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Jubilation and threats as Zimbabwe awaits election results

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HARARE – Although the country’s election commission has yet to release official vote tallies, the opposition MDC is claiming victory. Government officials have issued a warning of prosecution for prematurely announcing results.

On Tuesday, citizens in Zimbabwe awaited official announcements as to the winner of Monday’s historic elections, the first to take place since longtime President Robert Mugabe stepped down under military pressure in November 2017.

Although the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has delayed declaring a winner, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims its presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, won the vote.

Developments on Tuesday

  • Both presidential candidates, Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF and Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic change (MDC) voiced optimism that they would win the vote.
  • President Mnangagwa urged patience and emphasized that the ZEC is the only authority with a mandate to announce results.
  • Senior MDC politician Tendai Biti accused the election commission of delaying an announcement to tamper with the results.
  • Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu threatened politicians who announced results prematurely with prosecution and jail time.
  • Police are currently patrolling the streets of the capital, Harare, with water cannons.

Who is saying what

  • President Mnangagwa: “As we wait for results to come in, let us remember that only the ZEC is constitutionally mandated to announce any form of results.”
  • ZEC Chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba: “We are nowhere near where we expected to be, so I can quite see us going into the fifth day, which is allowed by law — but we are working flat-out.”
  • Tendai Biti of the MDC: “We are however seriously concerned about evidence of interference … there is a deliberate delay in announcing the results. This delay is totally unacceptable.”
  • Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said anyone announcing election results before the ZEC would: “provoke the wrath of the law and risk being sent to jail.”
  • EU chief election observer Elmar Brok: “There are shortcomings that we have to check. We don’t know yet whether it was a pattern.”

Historic vote: This week’s election was Zimbabwe’s first since strongman Robert Mugabe, who led the country for 37 years, was forced to step down last November under pressure from the country’s military. Mnangagwa, who took over for Mugabe and is known as “the crocodile” for his ability to devour any opposition, softened his tone before the vote and was largely favored to win.

What happens next: Final results were scheduled to be announced Tuesday afternoon yet the announcement has been delayed. The election commission has until Saturday to present a final tally. However the conflict unfolding between the opposition MDC and the ruling ZANU-PF could set the stage for both sides eventually contesting election results, forcing a runoff in September should neither candidate win more than 50 percent of the vote.

js/kms (AP, AFP)