Zimbabweans have turned out in huge numbers on Monday, 30 July to vote in the first election since Mugabe was removed from power in November, 2017. With this being the first vote since the country’s independence in 1980 without Mugabe’s name on the ballot, it is a move towards democracy for Zimbabwe.
With nearly five million Zimbabweans having registered to vote, long line ups have been reported across the country at a number of polling stations, with polling officials reporting in the capital, Harare, and surrounding towns a voter turnout ranging from 75-85%. The election has been largely peaceful, which shows a promising future for democracy in the country, with previous elections being marred with violence, intimidation and unrest.
The two top runners in the election mark two opposing directions for the nation, with the current President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, representing a sense of continuity for Zimbabwe, being an aide to Mugabe over much of his time in power, and head of the ruling party, ZANU-PF. In comparison, Nelson Chamisa, 40, represents a new turn for Zimbabwe, being the leader of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), along with being a lawyer and pastor. They both resonate with their respective generations, so it will be interesting to see the outcome of this election, which is expected to be released towards the end of this week.
Chamisa told reporters as he voted, “This is a great moment for Zimbabwe. The people have spoken. I know we are winning. I know we have won.” However, later the MDC leader suggested impediments were created for urban voters, making up much of his support base, through “unnecessary delays.” He tweeted, “There seems to be a deliberate attempt to suppress and frustrate the urban vote.”
A legitimate election is crucial for Zimbabwe at this time, as any fraudulent actions would stop the nation from being reintegrated into the international community, and block any monetary support to prevent an economic disaster. Observers from the EU and the U.S. have been given permission to monitor the election, this being the first time since the 2002 vote.
Mugabe has spoken out against supporting his successor, by saying, “I can’t vote for ZANU-PF. I can’t vote for those in power. I can’t vote for those who brought me into this state,” to reporters on Sunday, 29 July. He has said that he will vote for the MDC leader, Chamisa.
With the election results set to be released over the next few days, there is hope for a brighter future for Zimbabwe, with true democracy being fostered, and the country being held to account for a legitimate election. Whatever the outcome may be, it will be a symbolic to the people and cement their right to choose the leadership they desire for their country. With a 37-year rule by Mugabe ending just late last year, the new leadership to follow this election will be a new page for Zimbabwe on their democratic path.
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