Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has won the majority of seats in parliament after sweeping rural constituencies by huge margins, official results show.
The parliamentary outcome does not necessarily indicate voters’ choice of president, however. The result in the presidential vote – being contested by Zanu-PF president Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – is due by 4 August but expected sooner.
According to The Guardian, tensions are rising in the former British colony as opposition fears grow that the election count is being rigged. Monitors have warned of possible violence if the results are contested, and authorities are braced for protests.
Millions of people voted peacefully on Monday in the first election since the army removed Robert Mugabe from power last year. Long queues formed outside polling stations and turnout was recorded at 75%.
Chamisa’s MDC had won 41 seats. Analysts blamed divisions within the opposition for the low tally.
Chamisa claimed in a tweet on Wednesday morning that the ZEC “seeks to release results to buy time & reverse the people’s presidential election victory”.
He added: “The strategy is meant to prepare [Zimbabwe] mentally to accept fake presidential results. We’ve more votes than ED [Mnangagwa]. We won the popular vote & will defend it!”
The election pitted Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and pastor whose only previous experience of power was a stint as a minister in a coalition government several years ago, against Mnangagwa, 75, a longtime Mugabe aide and head of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Chamisa claimed on Tuesday that he was “winning resoundingly”, a claim repeated by senior officials over the course of the day. His supporters gathered at their party’s headquarters in the capital during the afternoon to celebrate victory despite the lack of official results. Police vehicles equipped with water cannon patrolled nearby.
Obert Mpofu, the home minister, said the government was concerned by “high levels of incitement to violence … by certain individuals and some political leaders who have declared themselves winners”.
If no candidate wins more than half the votes in the presidential election, there will be a runoff in five weeks. Another possibility is negotiations to form a coalition government.
The two presidential candidates represent dramatically different ideologies and political styles, as well as generations. Pre-election opinion polls gave Mnangagwa, a dour former spy chief known as “the Crocodile” for his reputation for ruthless cunning, a slim lead over Chamisa, a brilliant if sometimes wayward orator.
Support for Zanu-PF historically has been deepest in rural areas, particularly the party’s Mashonaland heartland, where more than two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s 17 million people live.
Although the campaign has been free of the systematic violence that marred previous polls, the MDC has repeatedly claimed it has been hindered by a flawed electoral roll, ballot paper malpractice, voter intimidation and handouts to voters from the ruling party.
Andrew Makoni of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of civil society groups that deployed 6,500 election monitors, said: “The fear is that people are going to be disgruntled to the point where they go into the streets, and then there is a worry what the response will be from the security forces in the country.”
The MDC has repeatedly accused the electoral commission of bias and many of their allegations have been supported by independent analysts and experts.
Election monitors from the US and the European Union will deliver their preliminary verdicts on the poll on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe’s rulers know a fraudulent election would block the country’s reintegration into the international community and deny it the huge bailout package needed to avoid economic meltdown.
Almost four decades of rule by Mugabe has left Zimbabwe with a shattered economy, soaring unemployment and crumbling infrastructure.
Supporters said the president had won “a landslide victory”.
“The MDC are just extremely bad losers,” said Bright Matonga, a businessman and former ruling party minister.