Voting continues in Zimbabwe as opposition alleges rigging

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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s president extended voting by another day after long delays marred the start of balloting in key districts and sparked opposition accusations of “rigging” and “voter suppression”.

As polling began to close in some voting stations, it was only starting in others, prompting opposition accusations of vote manipulation after a campaign marked by tension and a clampdown.

“I do, by this proclamation in respect of the affected polling stations for the wards… fix the 24 of August 2023 as the last day of polling,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced in a presidential directive contained in a government notice.

READ: Zimbabwe opposition leader claims ‘rigging’, ‘voter suppression’

Less than a quarter of polling stations in Harare — an opposition stronghold — opened on time, according to electoral authorities, who blamed the problem on delays in the printing of ballot papers. 

“This is a clear case of voter suppression, a classic case of Stone Age, antiquated, analog rigging,” Nelson Chamisa, the head of the leading opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) told a press conference in the capital. 

Chamisa is the main challenger to Mnangagwa, who came to power after a coup that deposed late ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017. 

Mnangagwa is seeking a second term in an election that came on a backdrop of widespread discontent at the southern African country’s economic troubles. 

The poll is being watched across southern Africa as a test of support for the ZANU-PF party, whose 43-year rule has been battered by an economic slump and charges of authoritarianism.

Chamisa blamed the governing ZANU-PF party, which has ruled the country since independence, for the delays, saying it was “desperate” to cling to power and risking plunging the country into a “crisis”.

The electoral commission blamed the problem on delays in the printing of ballot papers “arising from numerous court challenges”.

READ: Zimbabwe to vote in uphill election for defiant opposition

Chamisa lashed out at the problems, saying it was a “classic of voter suppression” targeting CCC strongholds. 

“The fact they have targeted Harare… is an indication that they are scared of people in the urban areas.”

At least 6.6 million people were registered to vote, with more than a million living in Harare.

Publication of the results is legally required within five days.

To clinch re-election, Mnangagwa must win an absolute majority or face a runoff.

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