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Zimbabwe: Ruling Party Wins Election Amid Fraud Accusations

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe claimed victory on Saturday in an election marred by widespread allegations that the governing part...

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe claimed victory on Saturday in an election marred by widespread allegations that the governing party, ZANU-PF, had committed fraud.

Mnangagwa’s victory over his closest competitor, Nelson Chamisa, after his first full term in office strengthened ZANU-PF’s grip on power in a nation it has led since independence from Britain in 1980. 

Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has suffered under disastrous economic policies that have led to soaring prices, high unemployment and a medical system lacking basic drugs and equipment.

Mnangagwa won 52.6 percent of the vote compared with 44 percent for Chamisa, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is responsible for running the election and has faced withering criticism of showing bias toward ZANU-PF.

Chamisa’s party, Citizens Coalition for Change, quickly denounced the results and vowed to challenge them.

“We reject any result hastily assembled without proper verification,” Promise Mkwananzi, the party spokesman, wrote on Twitter shortly after the results were announced. “We will not relent on the people’s victory!”

With Mr. Mnangagwa, 80, winning another five years in office, Zimbabwe is likely to continue to struggle to break out of its isolation from Western nations, which have demanded greater democracy and respect for human rights in exchange for helping it grapple with $18 billion in debt.

Zimbabwe, a southern African nation of 16 million, has a history of election irregularities, and such tactics helped Robert Mugabe, a liberation leader turned autocrat, maintain power for nearly four decades. 

Zimbabwe: Ruling Party Wins Election Amid Fraud Accusations

Mugabe was removed in a coup in 2017 by Mnangagwa and his allies. The following year, Mnangagwa eked out a victory over Mr. Chamisa in an election, winning just over 50 percent of the vote.

This year’s voting, held on Wednesday, was marred by chaotic delays of more than 10 hours at some polling locations because the country’s electoral commission failed to deliver ballots on time.

 Thousands of voters found themselves camping overnight at polling stations because of the delays, which mostly affected urban areas, where Chamisa and his party hold most of their support.

The Zimbabwean police drew global condemnation for arresting dozens of members of one of the country’s most respected election watchdogs on election night, accusing them of plotting to sow discord by releasing projected election results. 

The night after the raid, ZANU-PF officials offered their own election projections at a news conference, and drew no ire from the police.

Before the results were announced, several independent foreign observer missions criticized the fairness and credibility of the elections. 

The European Union’s mission offered among the most biting critiques, saying in a statement that the government curtailed fundamental freedoms by passing repressive laws “and by acts of violence and intimidation, which resulted in a climate of fear.”

Although Election Day was peaceful, “the election process fell short of many regional and international standards, including equality, universality and transparency,” the statement said.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, the spokesman for ZANU-PF, said the allegations of vote rigging were “all humbug.” The election mechanics were foolproof, he said, with agents from every party allowed to observe the vote counting and sign off on the results in each precinct.

“We have shown the whole world that we have exercised democracy,” he said.

Before the voting on Wednesday, ZANU-PF used the machinery of the state to shut down opposition rallies and try to get candidates thrown off the ballot in court, analysts said. 

The governing party also deployed Forever Associates Zimbabwe, a pseudo-military organization run by people with close ties to the government’s intelligence agency, to intimidate voters in rural communities, said Bekezela Gumbo, a principal researcher at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital.

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