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The Crocodile wins Zimbabwe parliament, but was voting free and fair? Violence erupts.

EDINBURGH — Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, is the victor in the first election of the post-Mugabe era, according to officials. Led by Mugabe’s former right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zanu-PF has won the majority of parliamentary seats, electoral commission officials have announced. Many Zimbabweans were pinning their hopes on Zanu-PF not getting to two-thirds of the seats, as this would enable it to change the Constitution. But Zanu-PF is looking as powerful as ever under Mnangagwa, also called the Crocodile. Meanwhile, Mnangagwa’s main rival Nelson Chamisa said his own party’s count indicated that the MDC was in the lead. He has raised questions about why the results have been released so slowly. For an improvement in investor sentiment, international observers will have to agree that the election was free and fair. – Jackie Cameron

Zim all set? More of Zapiro’s brilliant cartoon work available at www.zapiro.com.

By Desmond Kumbuka, Brian Latham and Godfrey Marawanyika

(Bloomberg) – Zimbabwe’s ruling party won a majority of parliamentary seats in the first election of the post- Robert Mugabe era as the opposition and advocacy groups questioned the credibility of the process.

With almost three-quarters of results from the legislative vote tallied, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had won 110 of the 210 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, electoral commission officials said in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday. Nelson Chamisa’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance won 40, while the National Patriotic Front and an independent candidate each secured one. Another 60 seats will be allocated to women based on the proportion of the vote their party wins.

After a largely peaceful campaign and vote on Monday, the focus now shifts to the credibility of the process and whether the results are accepted, key pillars needed to rebuild the southern African nation after two decades of decline under Mugabe’s rule. The jury is still out on whether the contest was fair, with observers noting a number of flaws and the opposition alleging there’d been a deliberate attempt to frustrate and suppress urban voters.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the country’s largest group of non-governmental organizations, said the July 30 election “falls short of a credible process.” It cited concerns that the voters’ roll hadn’t been released prior to the poll, about a fifth of results from the presidential ballot weren’t published outside polling stations and that some voters had been “deliberately displaced.”

The MDC also questioned the pace of releasing results from the presidential vote. The ruling party’s margin of victory in legislative elections makes Mnangagwa, 75, the stand-out favourite in that race, which featured 22 candidates. The outcome will be announced once results from all provinces are received and verified, Priscilla Chigumba, the chairwoman of the electoral commission, told reporters. Final results must be released by Aug. 4.

The ZEC “seeks to release results to buy time and reverse the people’s presidential election victory,” Chamisa said on his Twitter account. “The strategy is meant to prepare Zimbabwe mentally to accept fake presidential results.”

Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who took control of the MDC after the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February, said on Tuesday that based on his party’s own count of unofficial results from more than 90 percent of the 10,985 polling stations, the MDC was “winning resoundingly” and ready to form the next government.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), center, arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in the Kuwadzana township, in Harare, on July 30, 2018. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu accused individuals and parties of inciting violence by declaring themselves winners before the results were announced.

European Union and American observer groups are due to deliver their assessments of the vote later on Wednesday. 

The ruling party forced Mugabe to resign in November, when the military briefly seized control of the country, and replaced him with Mnangagwa, his former deputy and spy chief. Whoever wins the vote will have to administer a broke Treasury that’s unable to service its loans or take out new ones, leaving little scope to improve government services, rebuild crumbling transport links and meet a plethora of other election pledges.

“The ability for the new government kick-start the economy will in a large part depend on to what extent it can mobilise external support for whatever reform program they will embark on,” said Mark Bohlund, an Africa economist at Bloomberg Economics. “There is arguably a strong desire to help Zimbabwe pave its way out the economic disaster of the last decades, but also an understandable suspicion of the real intent of the political and economic elite to change their ways.”


US observers say Zimbabwe vote was marred by abuses and bias

By Brian Latham, Desmond Kumbuka, Godfrey Marawanyika and Paul Richardson

(Bloomberg) – Zimbabwe’s general elections marked an improvement over votes during the rule of former President Robert Mugabe, but were still marred by abuses including the use of food assistance to bolster the campaign of the ruling party, two US observer groups said.

The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute said that while the campaign was relatively free, there were “numerous incidents” of food and agricultural assistance and “extreme media bias” being used to secure support for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Earlier, the European Union said Zimbabwe didn’t achieve a “level playing field” in the presidential and parliamentary elections on Monday.

“The delegation notes several improvements to the electoral process compared to Zimbabwe’s past elections, though equally important problems give rise to deep concerns that the process thus far has not made the mark,” the US observers said in an emailed statement.

Zanu-PF secured a landslide win in the parliamentary election, while the count in the presidential race is continuing. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has said it may challenge the results. The final verdict on the fairness of the vote will be key to the southern African nation’s efforts to rebuild after two decades of decline under the rule of Mugabe, who was ousted in November after a brief military intervention.

“The improvements were likely insufficient to build broad public confidence that voters could make a choice adverse to the ruling establishment without fear of violence or other retribution should the position prevail,” the US institutes said.


Protests erupt in Zimbabwe after ruling party wins landslide

By Desmond Kumbuka, Godfrey Marawanyika and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) – Sporadic violence erupted in Zimbabwe’s capital after the ruling party secured a landslide win in the first parliamentary election of the post- Robert Mugabe era that Western observer groups said was marred by abuses.

The verdict by monitors from the European Union and the US is likely to dent President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s drive to attract investors to rebuild the southern African nation, which is still reeling from two decades of misrule and economic decline under Mugabe. The main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, said it may mount a legal challenge to the results.

Several hundred MDC supporters wearing red party T-shirts ripped down ruling-party posters in Harare and were confronted by anti-riot police firing tear-gas grenades. Protesters also converged on the Harare International Convention Centre, where results are being collated and announced, and blocked off a road with stones, set an electoral commission flag afire and shattered the windows of a security cubicle before being dispersed. A large crowd also gathered outside the commission’s Harare office, shouting MDC slogans.

While MDC presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa said on his Twitter account that “we have won the popular vote,” Mnangagwa called for calm, saying “now is the time for responsibility and above all, peace.”

Abuses outlined

The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute said that while the campaign was relatively free, there were “numerous incidents” of food and agricultural assistance and “extreme media bias” being used to secure support for Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Earlier, the European Union said Zimbabwe didn’t achieve a “level playing field” in Monday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

“The improvements were likely insufficient to build broad public confidence that voters could make a choice adverse to the ruling establishment without fear of violence or other retribution should the position prevail,” the U.S. observers said.

With almost all the legislative results tallied, Mnangagwa’s party won 143 of the 210 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, electoral commission officials said Wednesday, while Chamisa’s MDC alliance won 60.

Another 60 seats will be allocated to women based on the proportion of the vote their party wins. The ruling party is almost certain to secure a two-thirds majority in the assembly, enabling it to unilaterally change the constitution.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the country’s largest group of non-governmental organisations, said the July 30 election “falls short of a credible process.” It cited concerns that the voters’ roll hadn’t been released prior to the poll, about a fifth of results from the presidential ballot weren’t published outside polling stations and that some voters had been “deliberately displaced.”

Presidential race

The MDC also questioned the pace of releasing tallies from the presidential vote. The ruling party’s margin of victory in legislative elections makes Mnangagwa, 75, the favorite in that race, which featured 22 candidates. The outcome is likely to be announced on Thursday, Priscilla Chigumba, the chairwoman of the electoral commission, told reporters.

The ZEC “seeks to release results to buy time and reverse the people’s presidential election victory,” Chamisa said on his Twitter account. “The strategy is meant to prepare Zimbabwe mentally to accept fake presidential results.”

Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who took control of the MDC after the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February, said on Tuesday that based on his party’s own count of unofficial results from more than 90 percent of the 10,985 polling stations, the MDC was “winning resoundingly” and ready to form the next government.

Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu accused individuals and parties of inciting violence by declaring themselves winners before the results were announced.

African observers were much more positive about the election than their Western counterparts, who weren’t invited to scrutinise the last three votes.

A group from the Southern African Development Community said in preliminary findings that the campaign and vote were generally peaceful and in line with the law, describing it as “a watershed” in the country’s history. African Union observers found the election was by and large well administered despite some logistical challenges, and the electoral commission was well prepared.

The ruling party forced Mugabe to resign in November, when the military briefly seized control of the country, and replaced him with Mnangagwa, his former deputy and spy chief. Whoever wins the vote will have to administer a broke Treasury that’s unable to service its loans or take out new ones, leaving little scope to improve government services, rebuild crumbling transport links and meet a plethora of other election pledges.

“The ability for the new government to kick-start the economy will in a large part depend on to what extent it can mobilise external support for whatever reform program they will embark on,” said Mark Bohlund, an Africa economist at Bloomberg Economics. “There is arguably a strong desire to help Zimbabwe pave its way out the economic disaster of the last decades, but also an understandable suspicion of the real intent of the political and economic elite to change their ways.”

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