Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a second term in office, election officials said Saturday, but the opposition rejected the result of a vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.
Mnangagwa, 80, won 52.6 percent of the ballots against 44 percent for the main challenger, Nelson Chamisa, 45, according to official results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
“Mnangagwa Emmerson Dambudzo of ZANU-PF party is declared duly elected president of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” ZEC chairwoman Justice Chigumba told journalists.
Zimbabweans went to the ballot box to elect the president and legislature on Wednesday and Thursday in polling marred by delays that sparked opposition accusations of rigging and voter suppression.
The presidential results were welcomed by the celebratory cheers of a few ruling party supporters at the news conference venue.
But Promise Mkwananzi, a spokesman for Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) said the party did not sign the final tally, which he described as “false”.
“We cannot accept the results,” he told AFP, adding the party would soon announce its next move.
The vote was being watched across southern Africa as a test of support for Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF, whose 43-year rule has been battered by a moribund economy and charges of authoritarianism.
Foreign poll monitors said on Friday that the elections had failed to conform to regional and international standards.
– ‘Rigging’ –
Observer missions from the European Union, Commonwealth and the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) listed a number of concerns, including the banning of opposition rallies, issues with the voters roll, biased state media coverage and voter intimidation.
“The elections were fraught with irregularities and aggrieved the people of Zimbabwe,” political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said.
“The CCC has good grounds to go to court and challenge the outcome”.
Chigumba of ZEC said Mnangagwa had won more than 2.3 million votes, Chamisa more than 1.9 million.
By securing more than half the votes cast, the president avoided a run-off. Voter turnout was 69 percent.
Nicknamed “The Crocodile” because of his ruthlessness, Mnangagwa first came to power after a coup that deposed the late ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017.
A year later, he narrowly beat Chamisa a first time in a poll that the opposition leader condemned as fraudulent and which was followed by a deadly crackdown.
This week, voting was forced to stretch into an unprecedented second day because of delays in printing of ballot papers in some key districts including the opposition stronghold Harare.
Chamisa condemned the delays as “a clear case of voter suppression, a classic case of Stone-Age… rigging”.
As a white-ruled British colony named Rhodesia, the country broke away from London in 1965, gaining independence in 1980 after a long guerrilla war and renamed Zimbabwe.
But under Mugabe, its first leader, the fledgling democracy spiralled into hardline rule and economic decline, with hyperinflation wiping out savings and deterring investment.
The opposition hoped to ride a wave of discontent over corruption, high inflation, unemployment and entrenched poverty.
But ZANU-PF was also declared the winner in the parliamentary race, securing 136 of the 210 seats up for grabs under a first-past-the-post system, against 73 for the CCC. One seat was not assigned due to the death of a candidate.
Another 60 are reserved for women appointed through a party-list system of proportional representation.