Zimbabwe Opposition Says Election Was a ‘Fraud,’ Wants Rerun

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(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s main opposition party called for a rerun of an election that handed President Emmerson Mnangagwa another five-year term and was found to be deeply flawed by international observers, but it stopped short of saying whether the outcome will be challenged in court.

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Official tallies released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission showed Mnangagwa winning 52.6% of the votes cast in the presidential ballot on Aug. 23-24, and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front securing 136 of the 210 seats in the National Assembly. But Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer who heads the Citizens Coalition for Change, rejected the results as a “sham,” saying he and his party were the rightful winners.

“The entire election in this country was a fraud,” Gift Siziba, a CCC spokesman told reporters in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday. “We need a new, fresh and proper election in this country.”

Despite being asked repeatedly, Siziba didn’t specify whether his party will file a legal challenge, which must be made within the seven days of the results announcement. The opposition has failed in several previous bids to have disputed election outcomes overturned by the courts, including one that Chamisa filed in 2018 to reverse Mnangagwa’s victory.

“How can they call for a re-run without providing a single iota of evidence of the alleged rigging?” said Farai Marapira, ZANU-PF’s acting director for information. There are statutory process “that have to be followed through if they have any issues. For now they are just making noise,” he said.

Mnangagwa, 80, has held power since long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military-backed coup in 2017. His tenure has been marred by a succession of economic crises and the southern African nation is contending with the near-collapse of government services, runaway inflation and rampant poverty and unemployment.

The doubts cast over the credibility of the vote further sullies a bid by the government to win backing from multilateral lenders to reorganize its loans. “The conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections” is one of the demands outlined by creditors to restructure the nation’s debt arrears of $18 billion, the Treasury has said.

Read More: Mnangagwa Named Winner of Zimbabwe Vote, Rival Rejects Outcome

Observers from the Southern African Development Community, a regional bloc that has traditionally been loathe to criticize its members’ conduct, said the election fell short of the required standards. European Union monitors and the US and UK embassies in Harare issued an even sterner rebuke, saying the process was marred by violence and intimidation and the playing field was heavily titled in favor of Mnangagwa and the ruling party.

The president denied there was any attempt to rig the vote and accused some observer missions of overstepping their mandates when they criticized election legislation that Zimbabwe as a sovereign nation had every right to adopt.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was closely following election developments in Zimbabwe and was concerned about the arrest of observers, reports of voter intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and coercion, said Florencia Soto Niño-Martínez, his associate spokesperson.

“The secretary-general calls on political leaders and their supporters to reject any and all forms of violence” ensure that human rights and the rule of law are fully respected, and peacefully settle disputes through the correct channels, she said.

(Updates with comment from ruling party in fifth paragraph, UN secretary-general in 10th.)

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