HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was re-elected to a second and final five-year term on Saturday, with results announced much earlier than expected after a turbulent vote in the southern African country.
An opposition party spokesperson said within minutes of the results being announced that they would reject them because they were “hastily compiled without proper verification”.
The Zimbabwe Election Commission said in an announcement made late at night in the capital, Harare, that Mnangagwa had won 52.6 percent of the vote in the midweek poll. The committee said that the leader of the main opposition, Nelson Chamisa, got 44 percent. The results were published around 11.30pm
The result is likely to be closely scrutinized after election observers from the European Union and the African Union raised questions about the environment in the run-up to the vote and pointed to an atmosphere of intimidation against Chamisa’s supporters.
There were also problems with the actual vote.
The elections were scheduled to take place only on Wednesday, but the vote was extended to Thursday after a delay due to the printing of ballot papers. The results of the presidential election came as a surprise two days after voting closed, much earlier than expected to be announced on Monday.
“We reject any results that are hastily compiled without proper verification,” said Promise Mkwananzi, spokesperson for Chamisa’s Citizens Alliance for Change party. “We will advise citizens of the next steps as the situation develops,” he added.
The result leaves the presidency in the hands of the ZANU-PF, which has run government for the 43 years since Zimbabwe gained independence from white-minority rule in 1980 and will now extend its rule to nearly half a century with Mnangagwa’s victory.
ZANU-PF also retained its parliamentary majority in the elections.
“It’s a very happy occasion indeed,” said Ziambi Ziambi, Mnangagwa’s election agent and cabinet minister. “Zimbabweans have shown confidence in our president and in the ZANU-PF.”
Mnangagwa replaced longtime autocrat Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup and won a disputed election by a narrow margin against Chamisa in 2018.
Before the results were announced on Saturday, dozens of police armed with water cannons guarded the National Results Centre. It was the scene of deadly violence after the last election five years ago, when soldiers killed six people during protests over the delay in announcing the results of the presidential election.
This election was marked by further turmoil in a country with a history of violent and contested votes.
Voting continued until Thursday after delays in distributing ballot papers in the capital Harare and other urban areas prompted Mnangagwa to extend the polls by one day. Voters slept outside polling stations in urban areas considered strongholds of the opposition to cast their ballots.
To be sure, many people in the country of 15 million people view the outcome with suspicion.