Zimbabwe election: High turnout in first post-Mugabe poll

| Updated Jul 31, 2018 at 5:12am


AFP Image/Caption: Some people joined queues at 02:00 local time waiting for the polls to open at 07:00 local time


Voter turnout was 75% in Zimbabwe's first general election since long-serving ruler Robert Mugabe was ousted, officials say.

It is expected to be a tight contest between the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa and his main rival, Nelson Chamisa.

Foreign observers have hailed the election as an opportunity for Zimbabwe to break with its repressive past.

The official result is due within five days. A run-off election will be held on 8 September should none of the 23 candidates win more than 50% of the votes.

Parliamentary and local elections were also taking place on Monday.

Polls officially shut at 17:00 GMT but some remained open to allow people already in queues to vote.

Opinion polls gave Mr. Mnangagwa, who heads the ruling Zanu-PF party, a narrow lead over Mr. Chamisa, the candidate of the opposition MDC Alliance.

Both leaders are running for the presidency for the first time.

On Sunday, Robert Mugabe, who first came to power after independence in 1980, said he would not vote for his successor.

Mr. Mugabe, regarded as one of the last "Big Men" of African politics, was forced out of office last November by Mr. Mnangagwa with the help of the military.

Liberia's former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was monitoring the poll on behalf of the US-based National Democratic Institute, told the BBC that the long queues showed Zimbabweans were enthusiastic about voting, without any kind of repression.

"I think this is an exciting moment for Zimbabweans to change the course of their country through their votes," she told the BBC.

Mr. Mnangagwa invited the observers as part of his attempts to end Zimbabwe's isolation, and to secure investments to rebuild the shattered economy.

Mr. Mugabe had a poor relationship with Western powers, accusing them of undermining Zimbabwe's sovereignty and trying to topple him.