HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner of the Aug. 23 presidential election on Saturday night after a much-criticized electoral process by international observers.
The main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change led by Nelson Chamisa, who trailed Mnangagwa in the presidential vote, has raised concerns over alleged manipulation of the outcome. Insiders from the CCC said the Zimbabwean opposition party, which said its own tally of the voting results showed Chamisa leading, will contest the outcome of the presidential election result.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has declared Mnangagwa, 80, as president-elect, giving him a mandate to form the next government amid a tense environment in the capital, Harare. ZEC said the incumbent who deposed former leader, the late Robert Mugabe in 2017, polled 52% of the vote ahead of Chamisa’s 44%. In terms of numbers, Mnangagwa amassed 2.3 million against Chamisa’s 1.9 million votes, ZEC announced.
“We reject any result hastily assembled without proper verification not lectureship. We will advise citizens on the next steps,” said Prosper Mkwananzi, spokesperson for the CCC Saturday night.
Regional and international observer missions spoke against the electoral process earlier this week including the marked delays in delivering polling material to voting stations by ZEC which forced Mnangagwa to extend voting mainly in urban areas into a second day.
International groups also raised worries over alleged intimidation of voters by a non-governmental organization aligned to Mnangagwa’s party, the Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ).
Observers for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said some aspects of the election “fell short” of Zimbabwe’s own constitution and electoral rules. The African Union also expressed similar concerns about voters being turned away at 30% of stations it visited as well as the arrest and detention of civil society observers.
The United States Embassy in Harare as well as the observer mission from the European Union also said they were concerned about the observed problems with the transparency, independence, fairness, and credibility of the electoral processes.
“Curtailed rights and lack of level playing field led to an environment that was not always conducive to voters making a free and informed choice in Zimbabwe’s 2023 Harmonised Elections”, the EU’s chief observer, Fabio Massimo Castaldo, said.
Ahead of the announcement of Mnangagwa’s victory, Zimbabweans scurried home after reports of a crackdown by suspected state security agents two days after the initial voting. Earlier in the day, a CCC press conference was disrupted, with the police later saying it was enforcing an arrest warrant against the CCC’s newly appointed spokesperson, Promise Mkwananzi.
Mnangagwa will have to unite a sharply divided nation as he kick-starts his second term of office against the backdrop of a poorly performing economy characterized by runaway inflation and sustained weakness in the local currency.
Although Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF won 136 of the parliamentary seats ahead of the CCC’s 73, it fell short of the key two-thirds majority of 140 constituencies it was gunning for.
A two-thirds majority in the national assembly would have enabled Zanu PF to push through policies and legislation amid fears among rights and democracy campaigners that Mnangagwa could push for a constitutional amendment to extend his tenure beyond the two term limit. In the previous parliament session, Zanu PF used its majority in parliament to push through the so-called Patriotic Bill which penalizes Zimbabweans for calling for or encouraging sanctions against the country.