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Arduous road ahead for Zimbabwe after election results

President Emmerson Mnangagwa will have to take on the onerous task of placing Zimbabwe on an even keel after the corruption and diplomatic isolation that marked the 37 years of the Mugabe regime

editorials Updated: Aug 01, 2018 18:21 IST
Hindustan Times
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa leaves the polling station after casting his vote for the presidential elections at the Sherwood Primary School in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe, July 30(AP)

The Zimbabwean election commission’s announcement that the ruling Zanu-PF party had won a majority of seats in Parliament in the country’s first general election after the ouster of strongman Robert Mugabe immediately sparked protests by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The opposition has spoken of vote-rigging, saying results were not posted outside a fifth of the country’s nearly 11,000 polling stations. The outcome will have far-reaching implications for the African nation whose economy and infrastructure have suffered during the nearly four-decade reign of Mr Mugabe.

Both the main candidates in the fray, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, had earlier claimed they are set to win and observers had said the race was too close to call. Mr Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old former spy chief who earned the nickname “the Crocodile” for his wily ways, is a long-time Mugabe aide who took power after the authoritarian ruler was removed in a de facto coup last year. Mr Chamisa of the MDC is a 40-year-old lawyer with little experience in governance, having served only a short stint as minister some years ago. Mr Mnangagwa was largely backed by traditional supporters of the Zanu-PF, including rural voters and the elderly who still believe the party has done a lot of good for the country of some 16 million people despite the excesses of Mr Mugabe’s reign. Mr Chamisa banked on urban and young voters, especially those affected by soaring unemployment across the country.

Despite the opposition’s allegations that the voting was flawed, the election commission has said there was no rigging or cheating in the elections that saw an average turnout of 75%. International observers noted the polls were peaceful but diplomats based in Harare said the playing field was not “level”. The uncertainty about the results had triggered fears among opposition activists that the government or the military could refuse to cede power if the Zanu-PF was defeated. Provided he also emerges the winner of the presidential race, Mr Mnangagwa will have to take on the onerous task of placing Zimbabwe on an even keel after the corruption and diplomatic isolation that marked the 37 years of the Mugabe regime, while also engaging the opposition to ensure that there is no confrontation that blocks developmental works. The country will also have to overcome sanctions and secure funding to help it overcome chronic economic woes. For now at least, Zimbabwe appears set to traverse a long and difficult path if it is to regain its reputation as one of Africa’s most promising economies.

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 18:21 IST