HARARE, May 30 – Zimbabwe will hold a general
elections on July 30, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on
Wednesday, a vote he has pledged will be free and fair with
international monitoring after the ouster of 94-year-old
strongman Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, who took power after the November military coup
against Mugabe, counts on the election to bolster his legitimacy
as he pursues a promised break with Mugabe’s repressive policies
while urging foreign investors to return to Zimbabwe.
Missing from the July ballot for the first time in 20 years
will be Zimbabwe’s foremost political gladiators, Mugabe and
Morgan Tsvangirai, the longtime opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) leader who died of cancer in February.
Mnangagwa has invited the Commonwealth to monitor voting in
Zimbabwe for the first time since 2002 when Harare was suspended
from the group over accusations of rigged elections. He has
applied for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth. [
Should the election be certified by international monitors,
it could be a key step to a resumption of financial aid by
foreign lenders for the first time in two decades.
The vote is being cast as a fight between the old guard of
Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war and a younger generation.
Mnangagwa’s main challenger is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa
from the MDC, who has energized the party, drawing huge crowds
at rallies in some of the ruling ZABU-PF party’s rural redoubts.
Sixty percent of the 5.4 million voters on the new register
are under 50 years old, according to official data.
Separately, the Constitutional Court dismissed an
application by Zimbabweans living abroad to be allowed to vote.
The court did not immediately give a reason.
In a brief statement in an official government gazette,
Mnangagwa said that he had fixed July 30 “as the day of the
election of the president, the election of members of the
national assembly and election of councilors.”
Prospective candidates will be registered on June 14.
A presidential run-off vote is set for Sept. 8 if no
candidate gets the 50-plus-one percent mark required to win.
For the 75-year-old Mnangagwa, victory would accord him
democratic legitimacy after taking power following the coup.
Nicknamed “Crocodile” for his secretive and insular
demeanor, Mnangagwa goes into the election with the advantage
of incumbency, allowing him access to state resources for his
Crucially, Mnangagwa enjoys the backing of the army, which
analysts say remains averse to a leader lacking a pedigree from
the independence war against Britain.
“Though the election looks like it will go to the wire, the
greater likelihood, based on cold-blooded analysis, is that
experience, depth, and state incumbency will triumph over
youthfulness,” said Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political
science at the University of Zimbabwe.
Critics say Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s most loyal acolyte and
blame him for a government crackdown on rebels loyal to
political rival Joshua Nkomo in the mid-1980s that rights groups
say killed 20,000 civilians.
Mnangagwa has denied the charges and says political freedoms
have improved under his short tenure and that he is repairing
frosty relations with the West.