Zimbabwe opposition leader vows to challenge election results

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Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has declared “a day of mourning for democracy” and rejected the results of an election which saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa score a narrow victory.

Mr Chamisa spoke shortly after riot police briefly broke up journalists who were waiting for his statement at a hotel in Harare.

The Movement for Democratic Change leader, who received more than 44% of the vote, is alleging violence and harassment against his supporters and manipulation of the election results.

He said the opposition has evidence of vote-rigging but that the electoral commission “didn’t want to listen to us”.

Mr Chamisa declared that “we won this election” and urged Mr Mnangagwa to acknowledge this.

The president later said scenes of riot police dispersing journalists at the briefing in Harare “have no place in our society”.

Mr Mnangagwa said on Twitter that authorities are “urgently investigating” the events.

The Zanu-PF leader, who took more than 50% of the vote, added that “we won the election freely and fairly, and have nothing to hide or fear”.

Zimbabwe’s closely-watched elections began with Monday’s peaceful vote, but turned deadly 48 hours later when the military opened fire on protesters. Six people were killed.

On Friday morning a truckload of police bearing shields and batons dispersed 100 local and international press members gathered to hear Mr Chamisa, without saying why they were taking such action.

The police move heightened the apprehension that remains in Harare after the army rolled in with tanks on Wednesday to disperse demonstrators who denounced Mr Mnangagwa and alleged vote-rigging in the country’s first poll following the fall of long-standing leader Robert Mugabe.

The military were not visible on Harare’s streets on Friday.

Riot police
Riot police enter the Bronte hotel (AP)

Mr Mnangagwa, Robert Mugabe’s former enforcer and confidante, said he was “humbled” by the victory and took to Twitter to urge Zimbabweans to stay peaceful.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who received more than 44% of the vote, said earlier on Twitter that “unverified fake results” had been announced by the electoral commission.

The commission “must release proper & verified results endorsed by parties,” he tweeted. “The level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay & values deficit is baffling.”

In a brief moment of drama shortly before the commission announced the winner in Friday’s early hours, two agents for Mr Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change party took the stage and told waiting journalists that they “totally reject” the results, and said they had not signed them as required, in protest.

Riot police
Riot police enter the Bronte hotel, where Mr Chamisa had been due to speak (AP)

The week’s events left many Zimbabweans with a sense of unease and questions about how different Mr Mnangagwa is from his predecessor, who stepped down in November under military pressure amid a ruling party feud after 37 years in power.

The 75-year-old Mr Mnangagwa has tried to recast himself as a voice of change, declaring that the once-prosperous Zimbabwe is “open for business” and inviting the Western election observers who for years had been banned by Mr Mugabe.

Riot police in Harare
Riot police surround journalists waiting for opposition leader Nelson Chamisa (AP)

So far, international observers have issued mixed reviews, calling Monday’s election peaceful and a break from the past, but expressing grave concern about the military’s “excessive” use of force.

They criticised the delay in releasing the results of the presidential vote, saying it raised concerns about possible manipulation.

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