Ruling Party Dominates in Zimbabwe's Parliamentary Election

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s ruling party was on track for a resounding victory in the first parliamentary election of the post-Robert Mugabe era as the count neared the three-quarters mark.

Tallies from 152 of the 210 constituencies showed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front winning 110 National Assembly seats, and Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change Alliance 40, officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday. The National Patriotic Front and an independent candidate each won one seat. Results from the other districts are due to be announced later in the day.

With the campaign and Monday’s vote having largely been peaceful, the focus now shifts to the credibility of the process and whether the results are accepted, key pillars needed to rebuild the southern African nation after two decades of decline under Mugabe’s rule. The jury is still out on whether the contest was fair, with observers noting a number of flaws and the opposition alleging there’d been a deliberate attempt to frustrate and suppress urban voters.

Ruling Party Dominates in Zimbabwe's Parliamentary Election

Mnangagwa, 75, and Chamisa, 40, are the stand-out favorites in the presidential race, which featured 22 candidates. That outcome will be announced once results from all provinces are received and verified, Priscilla Chigumba, the chairwoman of the electoral commission, told reporters. Final results must be released by Aug. 4.

Zimbabwe’s 270-seat National Assembly comprises 210 directly elected members and 60 women chosen via proportional representation. It also has an 80-seat senate, with 60 members elected via proportional representation, 18 positions reserved for traditional leaders and two for candidates with disabilities. Zanu-PF previously controlled 196 seats in the assembly and 57 in the senate.

Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who took control of the MDC after the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February, said on Tuesday that based on his party’s own count of unofficial results from more than 90 percent of the 10,985 polling stations, the MDC was “winning resoundingly” and ready to form the next government.

The government was perturbed by individuals and parties who were inciting violence by declaring themselves the winners before the results were announced, Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said in a statement.

The ruling party forced Mugabe to resign in November, when the military briefly seized control of the country and replaced him with Mnangagwa, his former deputy and spy chief. Whoever wins the vote will have to administer a broke Treasury that’s unable to service its loans or take out new ones, leaving little scope to improve government services, rebuild crumbling transport links and meet a plethora of other election pledges

Ruling Party Dominates in Zimbabwe's Parliamentary Election

Still, the country does hold some trump cards, according to Mark Bohlund, an Africa economist at Bloomberg Economics.

“Zimbabweans remain among the best-educated in sub-Saharan Africa and its infrastructure is still among the better, despite a lack of investment over the past decades,” he said. “This gives it a strong platform to reignite economic growth, if it can get the right economic policies in place and improve the rule of law.”

A first step will be the smooth conclusion of the elections.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an association of 34 civil rights and religious organizations, said while the political environment was calm and peaceful, the ruling party utilized state resources to campaign, used aid to force people to vote for it and enjoyed more favorable media coverage. It also found the final voters’ roll was released too late to analyze it, the electoral commission dispatched more voting kits to rural areas than urban ones and the electoral laws hadn’t been harmonized with the constitution.

Ruling Party Dominates in Zimbabwe's Parliamentary Election

“Concerns still remain about the independence of the ZEC amid executive interference in key electoral processes,” Andrew Makoni, the chairman of the network, which deployed about 6,500 observers, told reporters in Harare on Tuesday. “At this juncture, we have not yet made assessment as to whether this was a free and fair election.”

Chigumba said voting proceeded peacefully and went well overall, with turnout ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent in areas where the data was available. She assured Zimbabweans that the vote wouldn’t be rigged.

“We will not subvert the will of the people. Whatever the result is is exactly what will be announced,” Chigumba told reporters in Harare. “We have not received any official complaints from any political party.”

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