Polls open in Zimbabwe as the president seeks a second term


Polls opened in Zimbabwe on Wednesday as President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeks a second and final term in a country with a history of violent and disputed votes.
These are the second general elections since the ouster of longtime repressive ruler Robert Mugabe in a coup in 2017.
Twelve presidential candidates are on the ballot, but the main contest is expected to be between the 80-year-old Mnangagwa, known as the “the crocodile”, and 45-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
Mnangagwa narrowly beat Chamisa in a disputed election in 2018.
Chamisa hopes to break the ruling ZANU-PF party’s 43-year hold on power. Zimbabwe has known only two leaders since gaining independence from white minority rule in 1980.
A runoff election will be held on October 2. if no candidate wins a clear majority in the first round. This election will also determine the makeup of the 350-seat parliament and close to 2,000 local council positions.
In several poor townships of the capital, Harare, some people were at polling stations two hours before voting opened, fearing long lines.
The southern African nation of 15 million people has vast mineral resources, including Africa’s largest reserves of lithium, a key component in making electric car batteries. But watchdogs have long alleged that widespread corruption and mismanagement have gutted much of the country’s potential.
Ahead of the election, the opposition and human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused Mnangagwa of seeking to silence dissent amid rising tensions due to a currency crisis, a sharp hike in food prices, a weakening public health system and a lack of formal jobs.
Mnangagwa was a close ally of Mugabe and served as vice president before a fallout ahead of the 2017 coup.
He has sought to portray himself as a reformer, but many accuse him of being even more repressive than the man he helped remove from power.