Thursday, August 02, 2018

Incumbent Wins Zimbabwe Presidential Vote Amid Rising Tensions
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory extends ruling party’s nearly four decades in power; raid on opposition office comes as death toll from clashes between military, protesters climbs

By Gabriele Steinhauser and Bernard Mpofu
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 2, 2018 7:44 p.m. ET

HARARE, Zimbabwe—President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who deposed Robert Mugabe in November after serving him for decades, was declared the winner of Zimbabwe’s presidential election, extending the ruling party’s nearly four-decade hold on power.

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission early Friday said Mr. Mnangagwa, 75 years old, received 50.8% of the total vote, narrowly avoiding a runoff against his main rival, 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, who won 44.3% of the vote. He will be able to build on a two-thirds majority in Parliament, giving him broad sway over future laws and government decisions.

But his ability to fulfill his campaign promises—namely ending Zimbabwe’s status as an international pariah and healing its tattered economy—will be severely hampered by the violence and allegations of vote rigging that followed Monday’s election.

On Wednesday, six people died when soldiers wielding automatic weapons clashed with opposition protesters in the capital.

Mr. Chamisa has repeatedly said he won the popular vote and the election has also been criticized by international observers, including from the U.S. and the European Union.

During a break in the hourslong vote announcement, when the results for nine out of 10 of Zimbabwe’s provinces had already handed Mr. Mnangagwa a clear lead, the spokesman and national chairman of Mr. Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change tried to take the lectern in the electoral commission’s press room.

“These results have not been signed by the polling agents,” the chairman said, before being removed by police.

Minutes after the results were announced, supporters of Mr. Mnangagwa started chanting a song that has become the unofficial anthem of the November military intervention that hoisted him into the presidency. But the dark streets of the capital’s city center remained deserted, bar a few cars racing down avenues honking their horns.

The result capped days of tensions between Messrs. Chamisa and Mnangagwa and their supporters.

“We removed Mugabe, but not Mugabe-ism,” Mr. Chamisa said at a press conference, called shortly after police raided his party’s offices on Thursday, arresting several of his MDC colleagues and seizing computers.

The violence and allegations of vote manipulation have cast a pall over the first election in Zimbabwe since the military in November deposed Mr. Mugabe after 37 years in power and installed Mr. Mnangagwa in his place. Mr. Mnangagwa pledged to end Zimbabwe’s status as a global pariah and use foreign aid to heal the tattered economy.

Most shops in the city center remained closed on Thursday and police in riot gear and trucks carrying water cannons were stationed outside government and political offices. After nightfall, soldiers patrolled streets, where eight months ago thousands had celebrated Mr. Mugabe’s overthrow as a new “independence day” for the country.

International election observers condemned what they said was excessive force used to disperse protesters.

The observers, including from the U.S. and the European Union, have questioned the fairness of Monday’s election, flagging the use of state resources—such as food aid—and intimidation to pressure voters as well as bias by state media and traditional leaders in favor of ZANU-PF.

Mr. Chamisa rejected their request that he pursue legal means, including Zimbabwe’s courts, to address his party’s grievances. “When you go into the court here, you just walk into the lion’s den,” he said. “But we’re not about to be a meal for lions.”

He also said he had no control over citizens wanting to make their voices heard.

On Wednesday, shortly after the electoral commission said ZANU-PF had won two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, several hundred MDC supporters marched on the ruling party’s headquarters, where they were chased away by soldiers firing live ammunition.

In a statement released on Twitter before the results were announced, Mr. Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to remain peaceful and said there would be an independent investigation into the deaths in the clashes.

“This land is home to all of us, and we will sink or swim together,” he said.

Western diplomats and analysts said the military’s heavy-handed response to the protests and the doubts over the election would make it difficult for Zimbabwe to secure the financial aid Mr. Mnangagwa said it desperately needs. Nine out of 10 workers are without a job, unions said, and banks have restricted the withdrawal of U.S. dollars, the country’s dominant currency since 2009. Last year, the government ran a deficit of 14% of gross domestic product.

“The response from the military in opening fire on MDC Alliance protesters in the streets is fast undermining the goodwill that Mnangagwa has built in recent months from the international community,” said Christopher McKee of political-risk group PRS. “The unmeasured military response bears witness to a security apparatus little reformed since the Mugabe era.”

Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at

Appeared in the August 3, 2018, print edition as 'President Wins Vote In Zimbabwe.'

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