By Campaign Agent Sophia Esquenazi
After a highly contested presidential election, the news of who will become Zimbabwe’s next president has been announced. President Emmerson Mnangagwa won the country’s first election since former President Robert Mugabe’s removal, with 50.8 percent of the vote. Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition party, obtained 44.3 percent of the vote.
Mnangagwa became president in November 2017 following a military coup against Mugabe who served for 37 years in office. Through presidential and congressional elections on July 30, 2018, Mnangagwa has secured the continued rule of the ZANU-PF, the nation’s dominant party. Additionally, the party won the parliamentary elections, gaining 144 seats, while the MDC Alliance, which is made up of seven parties, won 64 seats, and the National Patriotic Front, a party formed by Mugabe loyalists, won one seat.
However, the elections did not come without strife, with opposition party leaders claiming that it was rigged. Chamisa described the results as being fraudulent and illegitimate and asserts that his supporters have been subject to violence and harassment. MDC leaders were also angered by the delay in the announcement of the presidential results; the election occurred on July 30, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) did not release the results until August 2. Following Mnangagwa's win, Chamisa released a Tweet stating: “The ZEC scandal of releasing unverified fake results is regrettable… The level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay & values deficit is baffling.”
Protests by opposition supporters quickly ensued in Harare, the nation’s capital, after the ZANU-PF majority win. Since then, six people have been killed in the clashes and many more injured, with police and the army using tear gas, water canons and live ammunition against protestors.
Mnangagwa blames the MDC for the violence, and has called for “everyone to desist from provocative declarations and statements.” Meanwhile, opposition leaders indicated that they would not accept the results, claiming that they were manipulated.
While many feel that the election was rigged, the vote was being closely watched by the international community. For the first time in 16 years, the European Union, Commonwealth and U.S. were allowed to monitor the campaigning and voting. Observers from the EU claim that “a truly level playing field was not achieved,” and pointed to the "misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation... all in favor of the ruling party." In contrast, China, an ally of Zimbabwe, accepted the landmark vote. Geng Shuang, the foreign affairs spokesman of China, urged "parties to put the interest of the country and the people first and respect the choice made by the Zimbabwean people."
The vote also has far-reaching implications for Zimbabwe’s dire economic situation. Since Mugabe came to power, the country has been cut off from loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Western officials, nevertheless, have said that they would consider granting loans if free and fair elections took place.
The then foreign secretary of the UK, Boris Johnson, described the election as an “instrument of foreign policy,” and a way to end the country's isolation, marking its importance and the significance of how it is perceived by the international community.
As Zimbabwe enters a new era under President Mnangagwa, it must obtain international legitimacy to bolster its weak economy. The results of the election and conflicts following it are to be watched closely, as they have long-term implications for the nation’s future and stability.
Sources and Further Reading
- By Jeffrey Moyo and Norimitsu Onishi, ‘Zimbabwe Elects Mnangagwa, the Man Who Ousted Mugabe’, The New York Times (2 August 2018)
- ‘Zimbabwe election: Emmerson Mnangagwa declared winner in disputed poll’ BBC (3 August 2018)
- James Masters, David McKenzie, Brent Swails, ‘Zimbabwe opposition rejects Mnangagwa's narrow presidential election win’, CNN (3 August 2018)
- ‘Zimbabwe election: Opposition rejects 'fake' poll results’, BBC (3 August 2018)
- Columbus Mavhunga, James Masters and Eliott C. McLaughlin, ‘3 killed in Zimbabwe protests as parties point fingers following hard-fought elections’, CNN (1 August 2018)
- Patrick Wintour, ‘Zimbabwe: UK's bet on post-Mugabe ex-colony hangs in the balance’, The Guardian (2 August 2018)
- ‘Zimbabwe election: Opposition calls poll results a 'coup'’, BBC (3 August 2018)
- Jason Burke, ‘Zimbabwe opposition leader: election result 'fraudulent and illegitimate'’ The Guardian (3 August 2018)
Image: GovernmentZA @flickr