Looming Presidential Results Draw International Spotlight to Zimbabwe

Chamisa ‘Why is the army taking over police duties

Protests and subsequent deaths in the capital Harare are the aftermath of vote rigging claims against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), raised by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, and sentiments by some worldwide observers that the poll was flawed.

Gunfire crackled on Wednesday as troops, backed by armoured vehicles and a military helicopter, cleared the streets of demonstrators who accused the ruling party of trying to rig Monday's presidential election.

Zanu-PF has taken a commanding early lead in National Assembly results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) last night, with the ruling party poised for a comfortable majority in Parliament.

Mnangagwa's main contender, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has already claimed he has won the election.

The electoral commission had said it would start announcing results for the presidential race from 10.30 GMT, but this was delayed as commissioners read out more parliamentary results. Hundreds of angry opposition supporters outside Zimbabwe's electoral commission were met by riot police firing tear gas.

Official results strengthened President Emmerson Mnangagwa's prospects of holding on to power in the key presidential vote, showing that ZANU-PF had easily won the most seats in the parliamentary ballot.

The government says the army was deployed in central Harare to help police restore order.

Both leading contestants in Zimbabwe's disputed presidential election indicated they had won on Thursday as a tense nation awaited official results three days after voting.

But the MDC has said it won the elections outright and accused the government and Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) of rigging the count.

The electoral roll has always been a contentious feature of Zimbabwean elections, allegedly the rotten core of systematic rigging under Mugabe.

In a six threaded Twitter message, Mnangagwa called for an independent investigation into the disturbances that rocked Harare yesterday resulted in the death of more than three people following the deployment of soldiers on the streets.

The presidential vote is expected to be much closer than what we've seen in the one for seats in Parliament.

Opposition protestors take to the streets of Harare, burning tyres and pulling down street signs.

Mnangagwa had promised a free and fair vote after the military ushered him to power with a credible vote meant to end Zimbabwe's worldwide isolation and attract foreign investment to revive the shattered economy.

It was the first time the military was back in the streets since Mugabe's ouster - at that time, they were welcomed by residents as liberators.

In an indication of the growing tension, a crowd of about 100 MDC supporters gathered outside a Harare hotel where election results were being announced but police blocked the entrance to the building, a Reuters witness said.

The head of the Commonwealth election observers in Zimbabwe, former Ghana leader John Dramani Mahama, condemned what he called the "excessive use of force" against protesters and said all sides should act with restraint.

African observer groups said the vote was peaceful, orderly and largely in line with the law but raised concerns about bias of state media and the commission.

In his presentation, His Excellency Minister Augusto noted that there has been a remarkable improvement in the exercise and protection of civil and political rights in Zimbabwe compared to the 2008 Presidential elections.

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