One person was killed in Harare on Wednesday as soldiers in military vehicles rolled through the Zimbabwean capital and opened fire on opposition activists protesting against claimed electoral fraud.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party won 109 seats in parliament against 41 for the Movement for Democratic Change, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said yesterday. But EU observers had criticised in the general election.
The turmoil started soon after opposition leader Nelson Chamisa claimed he had won the popular vote.
Scores of his supporters who had been burning tyres in the streets attacked riot police near the electoral commission headquarters. Officers responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
Supporters of the opposition party tore down a billboard of incumbent Mr Mnangagwa, and marched to the gates of the electoral commission, which were padlocked by police.
Smoke rose from burning vehicles and lorries carrying security forces circulated the streets of the capital.
Mr Mnangagwa called for calm in a post on Twitter while results were collected. The electoral commission said it would start announcing results for the presidential race but then pushed it back at least 24 hours.
Earlier yesterday,the EU observers criticised the government’s use of power during the election.
“A truly level playing field was not achieved,” EU chief observer Elmar Brok said, pointing to the “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media”.
But the mission welcomed an “improved political climate” and largely peaceful election, a break from past violence under longtime autocratic leader Robert Mugabe.
In the first election since the former president was ousted from office by a quiet coup, yesterday’s results showed there is strong support for the party that has dominated politics in Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980.
The results of the presidential election, which is a separate contest pitting Mr Mnangagwa against Mr Chamisa, are yet to be declared, but the parliamentary results bode well for the incumbent.
The results of the race are expected on Saturday and the EU mission says a more detailed statement on how the election results were handled will be released soon.
This was the first time western observers were allowed to monitor the democratic process in Zimbabwe for almost two decades.
The opposition party won in most urban centres. On Tuesday it accused the electoral commission of deliberately delaying the results of this week’s vote to favour the ruling party, and reported irregularities.
Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies but descended into corruption, mismanagement and diplomatic isolation in the latter stages of Mr Mugabe’s administration.
Its population of 13 million is struggling amid shortages of foreign currency, unemployment above 80 per cent and lack of foreign investment.