It was a momentous day in Zimbabwe as over 10,000 polling stations opened across the country, allowing over 5 million Zimbabweans to vote for their new president.
The elected leader will be the second person to be placed in power after Robert Mugabe resigned after 37 years in power. The election has proven to be a two-person competition between Zanu-PF's Emmerson Mnangagwa, who works closely with Mugabe, and MDC Alliance's Nelson Chamisa, an esteemed lawyer who aims to become the youngest head of state.
Mugabe has made it publically known that he would be taking a stand against Zanu-PF, claiming that he "would not be voting for his tormentors" and that any of the other opposing parties would be getting his vote. Former intelligence chief Mnangagwa recently took control when the army overthrew Mugabe from his position as president, giving Mnangagwa a small advantage.
Mnangagwa has made promises to strengthen the dismal economy, draw foreign investment and fix racial and tribal divisions. During his last rally he said, “People are saying, and I share their views, that something special is coming to Zimbabwe. Once re-elected on Monday with a real mandate for change and a full five-year term, I guarantee you it’s ‘Go and Go’ in our country. My commitment is to bring concrete change that will give comfort to all Zimbabweans.”
Chamisa who's strength lies in his communication with the masses is aiming to capture young and unemployed voters. “The momentum is huge. Victory is certain. There is nothing that can stop the people of Zimbabwe claiming their victory,” Chamisa told reporters on Sunday. “We are pulling out all the stops. We are leaving no stone unturned ... to make sure we win this election.”
The final tally will be announced within five days but Priscilla Chigumba, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, requested that candidates refrain from announcing the results before all of the ballots have been counted. The youth vote is expected to be key – with almost half of Zimbabwe's 5.6 million registered voters under the age of 35.
It is believed that Monday attracted a high turnout of 75% with the election featuring more than 20 presidential candidates and nearly 130 political parties competing for parliamentary seats.
If none of the presidential candidates win more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held on September 8. Western election observers were in Zimbabwe, indicating a liberal political atmosphere since Mugabe resigned in November after holding his position of power in Zimbabwe since 1980. Still, Although there is a sense of relief surrounding the liberal political atmosphere, there were concerns about prejudice in state media coverage of the election, a lack of transparency in ballot printing and local leaders reportedly intimidating voters despite their duty to stay neutral.
As citizens line up to vote, reports say that a woman collapsed and died as she waited in the queue on Monday but the name and age of the woman were not publicised. Chigumba released a statement saying: "The commission is saddened to learn of an unfortunate incident in Bulilima where a female voter collapsed and died at a polling station. We want to express our deepest condolences to the family of the now deceased."
This landmark election is a glimmer of hope for the freedom of Zimbabwe and, as the country awaits the result of this election, both frontrunners say they are confident.
Mnangagwa claims to have received "extremely positive" information while Chamisa has said his party was "winning resoundingly".