HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was re-elected for a second and final term Saturday as results were announced much earlier than expected following a troubled vote in the southern African country.
An opposition party spokesperson said within minutes of the results being announced that they would reject them as “hastily assembled without proper verification.”
Mnangagwa won 52.6% of the vote, the Zimbabwe Election Commission said at a late-night announcement in the capital, Harare. Main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa won 44% of the vote, the commission said.
The result will likely be scrutinized after election observers from the European Union and African Union raised questions over the environment in the buildup to the vote and pointed to an atmosphere of intimidation against Chamisa’s supporters.
The election was due to be held on just one day, last Wednesday, but voting was extended to Thursday after delays and problems with the printing of ballot papers. Results of the presidential election had been set down for Monday but came just two days after the ballots closed, mucvh sooner than expected.
“We reject any results hastily assembled without proper verification,” said Promise Mkwananzi, a spokesperson for Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change Party. “We will advise citizens on the next steps as the situation develops.”
The result keeps the ruling ZANU-PF party in the presidency. ZANU-PF has been in government for 43 years since Zimbabwe won independence from white minority rule in 1980. Mnangagwa replaced long-ruling autocrat Robert Mugabe in a coup in 2017 and won a disputed election by a razor-thin margin against Chamisa in 2018.
Ahead of Saturday’s announcement of the results, dozens of armed police with water cannons guarded the national results center, the scene of deadly violence after the previous vote five years ago when the army killed six people following protests over delays in announcing presidential election results.
This election was marked by more trouble in a country with a history of violent and disputed votes.
Voting only closed on Thursday after delays in distributing ballot papers in the capital, Harare, and other urban areas prompted Mnangagwa to extend voting by a day. Many voters slept outside polling stations in urban areas that are opposition strongholds to cast their ballots.
Many people in the country of 15 million are sure to view the result with suspicion.
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