Zimbabwe’s new dawn in question as doubts cast on poll results

Harare – MDC Alliance’s presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa has rejected election results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) late on Thursday with his party chair Morgen Komichi claiming they were “unverified” by the opposition party’s chief election agent and therefore “fake”.

Komichi took the Zec commissioners by surprise when he jumped to the top table shortly before the announcement of the last batch of the returns, and told journalists that his party would challenge the results in the Constitutional Court.

“The results that have been announced so far, we reject them because they have not been verified by our chief election agent (Jameson Timba). I represent my candidate Nelson Chamisa. The results are fake, they have just been printed and not verified,” said Komichi, adding that a meeting with Zec had been inconclusive.

Before Komichi could finish he and Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda were ushered out by State security agents.

Despite the drama, Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba went ahead and declared Zanu PF presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa as the winner with 50.8 percent of the votes, just enough to scrape through the constitutional threshold of 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff.

Chamisa, according to Zec, got 2147,436 votes representing 44.3 percent of the votes cast.

Mnangagwa’s disputed victory gave the ruling party firm control of government business after securing a two-thirds majority in Parliament with 163 seats against the MDC Alliance’s 64 seats.

The election was the first to be held in the former British colony since Robert Mugabe, the 94-year-old autocrat who ruled for 37 years, was ousted by the army nine months ago.

The results and management of the whole electoral process will be used to determine the Mnangagwa government’s legitimacy and whether the country qualifies for re-engagement with the international community.

After long years of isolation, Zimbabweans have hoped to be taken back into the fold by the international community.

Whether this happens, and economic collapse is averted, will depend on whether foreign powers and investors believe the first post-Mugabe polls and the results have the legitimacy required to allow the country back in blocs like the Commonwealth.

The international community called for a swift resolution this week as vote counting dragged on for more than three days and Chamisa’s supporters turned riotous after accusing Zec of fraud. Six people were shot dead on Wednesday when the army opened fire on opposition protesters who had taken to the streets with calls that the commission tinkered with the results.

The power scrap went right to the wire with Mnangagwa’s 40-year-old challenger winning in four provinces albeit with slight margins in two. Chamisa, however, scored crushing wins in the country’s two biggest cities, Harare and Bulawayo.

But the charismatic young politician and pastor was undone by low margins in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and surprisingly his home province of Masvingo.

Mnangagwa whose Zanu PF party swept the board in Mashonaland Central taking all parliamentary seats on offer crushed his opponent with 366,785 votes against the opposition leader’s measly 97,097. In Masvingo a province where Chamisa was expected to do well, he only managed 171,196 with his opponent picking 319,073 votes.

Harare carried Chamisa on its shoulders with his biggest vote haul garnering 548,889 and leaving Mnangagwa smarting in his wake with less than half his tally at 204,710.

Chamisa also won in Bulawayo where he got 144,107 against Mnangagwa’s 60,168, Matabeleland North where he won 137,611 while his rival received 111 452. It was a rather close fight in the Midlands, Mnangagwa’s home province, but the Zanu PF leader took the honour getting 350,754 against Chamisa’s 255,059.

Mnangagwa also won in Matabeleland South getting 107,008 with Chamisa very close on 90,292. Zec left Zimbabweans biting their nails after withholding results for Mashonaland West. At one point indications were the two frontrunners were neck and neck.

When the final results were announced, it brought the contest to a dramatic end with Mnangagwa garnering 312,958 to Chamisa’s 217,732.

Priscilla Chigumba went ahead and declared Mnangagwa the winner with 50,8 percent.

Chamisa, according to Zec got 2,147,436 votes representing 44,3 percent of the votes cast.

But the MDC Alliance presidential candidate dismissed the results as “scandalous” and promised to expose Chigumba and Zanu PF by giving the correct tallies captured and signed for by Zec polling officers and their agents at constituency level later on Friday.

Mnangagwa immediately capped the drama by taking to social media to salute his supporters.

“Thank you, Zimbabwe! I am humbled to be elected President of the Second Republic of Zimbabwe. Though we may have been divided at the polls, we are united in our dreams. This is a new beginning. Let us join hands, in peace, unity and love, and together build a new Zimbabwe for all!,” he said in a message on his Facebook wall.

African News Agency/ANA