Zimbabweans are voting today in a crucial general election that will determine the fate of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second and final term in office. Mnangagwa, who came to power in 2017 after a military coup that ousted longtime leader Robert Mugabe, is facing a strong challenge from opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who leads the Citizen Coalitions for Change (CCC) party.
The election is seen as a test of Zimbabwe’s democratic credentials, as well as its economic prospects. The country has been under US and EU sanctions for two decades. Mnangagwa has promised to revive the economy, fight corruption and open up the country to foreign investment. Chamisa has vowed to restore democracy, create jobs and improve public services.
The polls opened at 7 a.m. local time (0500 UTC) and are expected to close at 7 p.m. (1700 UTC). There are 12 candidates on the presidential ballot, but the main contest is between Mnangagwa and Chamisa. According to the constitution, a candidate needs more than 50% of the votes to win outright, otherwise a runoff will be held on October 2.
More than seven million people are registered to vote in the election, which will also determine the composition of the 350-seat parliament and nearly 2,000 local council seats. The electoral commission has said it will announce the results within five days of the vote.
The election is being monitored by observers from the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth and other regional and international bodies. However, some observers have complained of being denied accreditation or access to polling stations. The US State Department has also expressed concern over reports of political violence, intimidation and media restrictions ahead of the vote.
Both Mnangagwa and Chamisa have expressed confidence of winning the election and urged their supporters to remain peaceful and respect the outcome. However, they have also accused each other of trying to rig the vote and threatened to reject the results if they are not satisfied with the process.
Zimbabweans are hoping that this election will bring an end to decades of political turmoil and economic hardship that have plagued their country since independence from Britain in 1980. Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most prosperous nations, but it has suffered from hyperinflation, unemployment, poverty and social unrest under Mugabe’s rule. Mnangagwa and Chamisa have both pledged to usher in a new era of stability and prosperity for Zimbabwe.