May 31, 2018: Zimbabwe elections set for July 30

Zimbabwe will hold its general elections on July 30, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday, the first since the army forced 94-year-old former president Robert Mugabe to resign last November.

Mnangagwa, who became president following the military take-over, has promised to deliver on free and fair elections to win over Zimbabwe’s critics at home and abroad.

Missing from the July ballot for the first time in 20 years will be Zimbabwe’s foremost political gladiators, Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, the who died from cancer in February.

The vote will pit Mnangagwa against a clutch of opponents including 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa from the MDC.

In a brief statement in an official government gazette, Mnangagwa said that he had fixed July 30 “as the day of the election of the president, the election of members of the national assembly and election of councillors.” The runoff election date was set for September 8, 2018 if none of the presidential candidates achieve the 50 percent plus one poll result threshold set out in the Constitution.

Prospective candidates will be registered on June 14.

The 75-year-old Mnangagwa is seeking a victory that will give him a fresh mandate and the legitimacy that will strengthen his political hand after Mugabe was ousted in a coup.

Nicknamed “Crocodile” for his secretive and insular demeanour before taking office, Mnangagwa goes into the election with the advantage of incumbency. He has promised to break with Mugabe’s policies and says Zimbabwe is opening up to foreign investors.

Mnangagwa has officially applied for Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth it left in 2003 under Mugabe and has invited the grouping of former British colonies to send observers to its elections. The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe over accusations of having flawed elections in 2002.

State media reported yesterday that Mnangagwa had a strong chance of winning the elections, citing a survey by the Pan African Forum that projected the president would garner 70 percent of the votes, ahead of Chamisa’s 24 percent. (Zimbabwe Independent; Financial Gazette, Harare)