High turnout in first post-Mugabe poll

Nelson Chamisa

Voters turned out in huge numbers to cast their ballots in the first election since Robert Mugabe was ousted as president.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his main opponent Nelson Chamisa both said on Tuesday they were confident of victory, after peaceful voting in the first election since the end of Robert Mugabe's almost four decade rule.

Mugabe, whose 37-year rule came to an end when he was forced to resign in November, told reporters at his mansion in Harare on Sunday that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government was unconstitutional and ruled by the gun.

"Awaiting ZEC to perform their constitutional duty to officially announce the people's election results and we are ready to form the next government", Chamisa said.

Vote counting has started in Zimbabwe's first general election since long-term President Robert Mugabe was pushed out of office previous year.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former right-hand man in the ruling Zanu-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in a historic vote for the southern African nation.

Mr Mugabe has said that he would not vote for his successor, Mr Mnangagwa, saying: "I can not vote for those who tormented me".

"I am happy that both the campaigning process was peaceful, (and) voting today (yesterday) is peaceful", said President Mnangagwa.

Mugabe added that the world was made to believe that the military intervention was not a coup yet in actual fact it was, further rubbishing allegations that against he was positioning his wife Grace to succeed him.

Chamisa was reported to the police by the electoral commission on Sunday, who said a press conference he had held on that day violated the electoral act which forbids campaigning on the day before the vote.

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Western election observers were in Zimbabwe, reflecting a freer political environment since the November resignation of Mugabe, who had ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. "I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality", Mr Mugabe said. "I wish to meet him if he wins".

There were no immediate reports of violence, said Andrew Makoni, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an association of 34 civil rights and religious organizations.

However, the Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) insists that it has acted within the law, and will deliver a credible poll.

Zimbabweans line up to vote at the Fitchela primary school in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe.

A recent Afrobarometer survey of 2,400 people put Mnangagwa on 40 per cent and Chamisa on 37 per cent, with 20 per cent undecided.

Fabian Matsika, a security guard in Harare, said: "I'll vote for Chamisa because it is a vote for change, it is a vote for the youth". President Mnangagwa also said he will continue to regularly engage the former president as a citizen of Zimbabwe.

The results of the presidential elections are due by August 4. Mnangagwa, 75, reportedly seeks to deepen and develop ties with Russian Federation and China and is expected to win 40 percent of the vote, according to pollsters.

A run-off vote is scheduled for September 8 if no presidential candidate wins at least 50 percent.

He said, "The fact that ZEC has reported a non-offence at this crucial time is meant to intimidate the president (Chamisa) and his team, is an unacceptable demonstration of partiality and will not be viewed lightly".

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