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Zimbabwe election: Mnangagwa and Chamisa both upbeat

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Zimbabwe is awaiting the results of its landmark elections, with both frontrunners saying they are confident.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he had received “extremely positive” information but opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said his party was “winning resoundingly”.

Zimbabwe is electing a new president, parliament and local councils.

Monday’s vote – the first since long-serving ruler Robert Mugabe was ousted – attracted a high turnout of 75%.

The youth vote is expected to be key – with almost half of Zimbabwe’s 5.6 million registered voters under the age of 35.

European Union and US election monitors have been allowed into the country for the first time in 16 years to assess whether the elections are free and fair.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba said she was satisfied there was no cheating.

“We will not subvert [the people’s will],” she told journalists.

Previous polls have been marred by allegations of widespread rigging and intimidation.

When will we know the winner?

Zec has until Saturday to announce the results but Ms Chigumba said she expects the announcement to be made well within that deadline.

Observers say the race between Mr Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party, and Mr Chamisa’s MDC Alliance, is extremely tight. Both men are among 23 candidates running for president.

They both hinted at victory on Tuesday, but said they were waiting for Zec to make the announcement.

They are running for the presidency for the first time, and need more than 50% of the vote to win outright.

Otherwise, a run-off election will be held on 8 September.

Who are the main presidential rivals?

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zanu-PF

  • Known as “the crocodile” because of his political shrewdness – his party faction is known as “Lacoste”
  • Accused of masterminding attacks on opposition supporters after the 2008 election
  • Thought to be 75 years old, he promises to deliver jobs, and is seen as open to economic reforms
  • Survived several alleged assassination attempts, blamed on supporters of ex-President Mugabe.

The ‘crocodile’ who snapped back

Nelson Chamisa, MDC Alliance

  • His skull was fractured when beaten up by state security agents in 2007
  • Became an MP at 25, a cabinet minister at 31 and could become the youngest president at 40
  • A recently qualified pastor, he has been using the hashtag #GodIsInIt for his campaign
  • Has promised to rebuild the country’s devastated economy, but has been criticised for making extravagant promises – such as the introduction of a high-speed bullet train and bringing the Olympics to Zimbabwe.

The crusader taking on Zimbabwe’s ‘crocodile’

What are foreign observers saying?

European Union chief observer Elmar Brok said it was too soon to make a judgement but voting had been “very smooth” in some areas and “totally disorganised” in other areas, Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.

“There are shortcomings that we have to check. We don’t know yet whether it was a pattern or whether it was a question of bad organisation in certain polling stations,” Mr Brok told the AFP new agency.

As well as worries about the voters’ roll, the opposition has expressed concern over the security of ballot papers and voter intimidation in mainly rural areas.

Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was monitoring the poll on behalf of the US-based National Democratic Institute, told the BBC that Monday’s long queues showed Zimbabweans were enthusiastic about voting, without any kind of repression.

“I think this is an exciting moment for Zimbabweans to change the course of their country through their votes,” she told the BBC.

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