When Zimbabweans go to the polls July 30, the presidential ticket will not have Robert Mugabe’s name on it for the first time in decades. When Mugabe’s party ousted him from the presidency six months ago, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over and promised the people of Zimbabwe fair and free elections.
For the 37 years Mugabe was in power as prime minister and president, he held elections but used corruption and brutality to ensure his victories. In 2008 Morgan Tsvangirai ran against Mugabe and reportedly won in the first round of voting, but the results were withheld for a month until a runoff election.
Mugabe’s tactics and autocratic rule led the United States and other countries to put economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, seriously damaging the economy for decades.
Tawanda Majoni, the national coordinator at the media advocacy group Information for Development Trust, told The New York Times that this election will decide the future of Zimbabwe’s economy.
“If the opposition wins and the current government, in which the military has a high stake, accepts the outcome, this may also encourage international investors, development agencies, and embassies to render substantial economic, social, and political support to the new government,” Majoni said.
The Movement for Democratic Change political party has gained power over the years under its leader Tsvangirai, who died earlier this year. Now Tsvangirai’s successor, Nelson Chamisa, will run as Mnangagwa’s main opponent. Mnangagwa announced that if none of the candidates wins an outright majority on July 30, there will be a second round of voting Sept. 8.
Al-Jazeera reported that, so far, the opposition parties have campaigned without the threat of government violence, and 13 million Zimbabweans have already registered to vote. —Abby Liebing