Long queues as Zimbabwe votes in first post-Mugabe election

Emmerson Mnangagwa

GETTY INCUMBENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is the favourite to win the election on July 30

Zimbabweans cast their ballots on July 30 in the country's first election since authoritarian leader Mugabe, 94, was ousted past year, with concerns over fraud and the likelihood of a disputed result clouding voting day.

Mr Mugabe gave a slow and rambling address that at times betrayed his lingering bitterness and anger over his dramatic removal under military pressure and amid a ruling party feud a year ago.

On the eve of Zimbabwe's first election since his ouster in a de facto coup, the 94-year-old said he hoped his former allies in the "military government" would be voted out of power.

Asked his views on remarks made by former President Mr Robert Mugabe that there was no democracy in the country since Operation Restore Legacy in November past year, President Mnangagwa said in any democratic space, everyone was free to express their views.

Zimbabwe's generals shocked the world a year ago when they seized control and ushered Mnangagwa to power after Mugabe allegedly tried to position his wife Grace to be his successor.

"I can not vote for those who have tormented me", Mugabe said, in a reference to Mnangagwa, who took office with the military's support. "I will make my choice among the other 22 (candidates) but it is a long list", he added at a press conference in Harare.

Earlier in the day, both Mnangagwa and Chamisa were optimistic and promised to deliver change.

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Mr Mugabe also denied that, as president, he had planned to hand the leadership to his wife, Grace, saying it was "utter nonsense".

Mnangagwa was the clear election front-runner, benefitting from tacit military support, loyal state media and ruling party controls of government resources.

"I can't vote for those who have caused me to be in this situation, so there is Chamisa left".

He had been in power in Zimbabwe for 37 years - ever since it became an independent country in 1980.

Mugabe, wearing a dark suit and red tie, was greeted with cheers after casting his ballot but did not answer journalists' questions about who he voted for.

He added: 'Whoever wins, we wish him well.

Foreign observers say the election is an opportunity for Zimbabwe to separate itself from its violent and repressive history.

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Thousands of election monitors fanned out across the country to observe a process that the opposition said was biased against them despite electoral commission assurances that it will be credible.

Campaigning has been relatively unrestricted and peaceful compared with previous elections, and some analysts point to pressure for the vote to be judged credible to draw a line under the global isolation of the Mugabe era.

Polling in Zimbabwe is uncertain, but a recent Afrobarometer survey of 2,400 people put Mnangagwa on 40 per cent and Chamisa on 37 per cent, with 20 per cent undecided.

Mugabe hinted at potentially voting for the vibrant MDC leader. Chamisa, a charismatic speaker who honed his craft in the courtroom and the pulpit, is winning over young and unemployed voters who are frustrated with almost four decades of Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) rule.

In his televised address yesterday Mr Mugabe, who has backed a new political party that is part of a coalition supporting Mr Chamisa, said: 'He seems to be doing well at his rallies'.

Chamisa complained ahead of the vote about the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and said voters were being suppressed in urban areas where he is popular.

The two main presidential rivals voted Monday morning, and each said they were confident of victory.

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