At least one person was killed in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on Wednesday as soldiers stepped in to disperse stone-throwing opposition supporters who accused the ruling party of trying to rig Monday’s presidential election, witnesses said.
Thousands of supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change chanted anti-government slogans in Harare and faced off against a heavy police presence, fearing that their candidate, Nelson Chamisa, would have the election stolen from him.
It suggested there was a deliberate effort to delay announcing the results, reflecting deep suspicion about the panel presiding over the election.
The historic elections were the first without former President Robert Mugabe at the helm and, less than a year after he was forced to resign in the wake of a military takeover.
Observers had raised concerns about the independence of the electoral commission ahead of the vote, pointing to close ties to the ruling party and the military.
“Against this background, incidents of wanton violence and hooliganism which broke out this afternoon in the capital come as a complete surprise”.
Under Mugabe’s 37-year reign, elections were often marred by fraud and deadly violence, with the European Union observers banned since 2002.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said ZANU-PF had won 109 of the 153 seats confirmed so far, while 41 seats went to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
“I believe that the parliamentary results were released first as a psychological ploy to dampen opposition expectations regarding the presidential vote”, Prof. Another 58 seats are yet to be declared.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the MDC Alliance leadership is responsible for the disturbances that rocked Harare’s central business today. The results are a gimmick to try and prepare Zimbabwe for a rigged election.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition has said Mr Chamisa won the presidential election, sparking street celebrations by supporters on Tuesday.
Protesters here have called for intervention from Southern African Development Community and the African Union, calling this a war between citizens and the Zanu-PF led government.
The UN and former colonial power the United Kingdom both expressed concern about the violence, in which three people were killed after troops opened fire.
After first indicating it would release presidential vote totals on Wednesday, the electoral commission said it would wait until Thursday, adding that agents for the more than 20 candidates must verify them first. Final results must be released by August 4.
After the announcement, it will be critical to see if the Opposition parties will accept the results.
It followed a surprise press conference at his home on Sunday at which he stunned observers and called for voters to reject ZANU-PF, his former party.
“We also spoke to all the stakeholders and we indicated to them our thoughts on the environment prior to the election in our arrival interview”.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe delivers a speech during a live broadcast at State House in Harare, November 19, 2017.