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Zimbabweans were hopeful for change on Monday when they lined up to participate in the first presidential election since former President Robert Mugabe was ousted in November of 2017. Mugabe’s former right hand man and acting president, Emmerson Mnangagwa represented the governing Zanu-PF party and ran up against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the more liberal Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) according to Financial Times. It was a historic vote with the Guardian reflecting reports that 75% to 85% of registered voters had participated on Monday. But the results announced this Thursday were not as revolutionary as many had hoped with Mnangagwa winning the election by a narrow margin. With 50.8% of the vote going to Mnangagwa and 44.3% going to Chamisa, the former just barley passed the requirement for candidates to gain more than 50% of the vote for an outright win, according to Aljazeera. Many were upset with the delay in announcing the results and the EU team sent to monitor the election process announced that “a level playing field was not achieved” according to the Independent. Throughout the week, concerns of voter intimidation, media bias and misuse of state resources were revealed and the delay in announcing presidential results only made it worse. Protestors took to the streets in response to the mysterious delays and upsetting results this week, and three in Harare, the Zimbabwe capital, were even killed by police as tensions rose, the Independent reports.
Chamisa’s supporters were excited on Monday as they lined up to vote, one participant even reporting to BBC that “this election is different, there hasn’t been violence. It’s a good sign.” One supporter, Tinashe Musuwo, twenty, told Times Live as he lined up at the polls, “I am very optimistic this morning. Things will get better now.” But the hopeful energy amongst Chamisa’s supporters has fallen since Monday as the results came in. Chamisa himself responded to the Thursday news, telling Aljazeera that the results were “unverified,” “fake” and “regrettable” going on to Tweet “the level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay and values deficits is baffling.” Aljazeera continues with a statement from MDC chairperson Morgan Komichi who said “this result that you are hearing has not been verified… They are bogus results, and we believe that a lot of the figures have been inflated.” The Zanu-PF party and its voters celebrated the news with party spokesperson Paul Mangwana telling Aljazeera “we’re very pleased that our president has won because it means that we can now deliver the change that’s promised to the people.”
Though the end of Mugabe’s reign was a hopeful step in the right direction, it is clear his influence and corrupt tactics have not yet been removed from Zimbabwean politics. Mnangagwa is not a sign of change but rather an extension of the very dictatorship that Zimbabwe tried rid itself of less than a year ago with the ousting of Mugabe. The only way for Zimbabwe to develop the very democracy and independence they fought for over thirty years ago is to begin with fair and transparent elections. The corrupt methods of voter intimidation and media bias that occurred on the Monday election must be addressed with a proper revote in which every registered voter is able to elect the candidate that they truly believe in. This is the only way for real change to occur and for Zimbabwe to begin its long recovery out of financial hardships and a violent colonial past.
Mugabe reigned over Zimbabwe for thirty-seven years since the establishment of its independence in 1980, serving first as Prime Minister and then President, reports CBC. Considered one of the last “Big Men” of African politics, his popularity severely decreased throughout his reign due to “mismanagement and corruption” that “sent the economy into decline” CBC continues. The leader of the Zanu-PF party, Mugabe has maintained support in rural areas even after his forced resignation. Zanu-PF has been the ruling party of Zimbabwe since 1980 and is the major conservative party of Zimbabwe, making firm stances for Zimbabwean tradition and religion which includes the vilification of homosexuality, according CBC. Zanu-PF has been held responsible for much of the economic downfall of the country in the past decades due to its mismanagement, corruption, and soaring rates of unemployment, according to Financial Times. In November of 2017, Zanu-PF forced Mugabe out due to his growing unpopularity and he resigned three days later and appointed Mnangagwa in his place, Financial Times continues. The Movement for Democratic Change was established in 1999 by civic society groups attempting to oppose the 2000 constitutional referendum which they felt was too steeped in their recent colonial history. The new party was successful in voting no on the referendum and later became the main opposition party up against Zanu-PF, according to People’s Daily. Movement for Democratic Change is the thus the major liberal party of Zimbabwe and focuses on social justice and sustainable change according to the party’s website.
It is not yet known whether there will be a recount but given Mnagagwa’s exceeding of the 50% minimum vote, the election may not be revisited. Chamisa has continued to advocate for a fair election even after his loss and the many protestors on the streets of Harare and other areas in Zimbabwe are a sign that change is still to come. The results of the Monday election may not reflect the change that everyone had hoped for but it is clear that many Zimbabweans will not let these issues rest and will continue to demand the fair and just democracy that they deserve.