Zimbabweans yesterday were voting peacefully in their first election without former president Robert Mugabe on the ballot, a contest that could bring international legitimacy and investment or signal more stagnation if the vote is seriously flawed.
About 5.5 million people were registered to vote in the southern African nation anxious for change after economic and political paralysis during the nearly four-decade rule of 94-year-old Mugabe.
Long lines formed outside many polling stations in Harare, the capital, and elsewhere.
“I want to do this and get on with my business. I am not leaving anything to chance. This is my future,” said Emerina Akenda, a first-time voter.
Thousands of election monitors fanned out across the country to observe a process that the opposition says is biased against them despite electoral commission assurances that it will be credible.
The two main contenders are 75-year-old Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former deputy president who took over after Mugabe stepped down under military pressure last year, and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who became head of the main opposition party a few months ago after the death of its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe on Sunday called Chamisa the only viable candidate and rejected Mnangagwa and the ruling party, saying that “I cannot vote for those who have tormented me.”
Piercing whistles and cheers greeted Chamisa as he voted outside Harare, saying that “it’s a great moment for Zimbabwe.”
He said he hoped voting in rural areas, where most of Zimbabwe’s voters are and where the ruling party usually holds away, will be fair.
Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to be peaceful, tweeting: “We are one people, with one dream and one destiny. We will sink or swim together.”
He voted and called the election peaceful, and he took Mugabe’s criticism in stride, saying: “He is a citizen... He can engage me anytime.”
A record of more than 20 presidential candidates and nearly 130 political parties were participating. If no presidential candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on Sept. 8.
“This is a critical moment in Zimbabwe’s democratic journey,” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president and a leader of one of the international observer missions.
“The elections today provide an opportunity to break with the past,” Sirleaf said at a polling station in a school in Harare. “The lines and voter enthusiasm we are seeing this morning must be matched by an accurate count and their choice must be honored.”
Past elections were marred by violence, intimidation and irregularities, but Mnangagwa, a former enforcer for Mugabe who says he now represents change, has promised that this election would be free and fair.
The presence of Western election monitors for the first time in years is an indicator of a freer political environment, though concerns have been raised about state media bias toward the ruling party as well as a lack of transparency with the printing of ballot papers.
EU election observers were seen at one polling station in Harare, checking the voting process. African Unions attended the opening of polling stations elsewhere.
Even though it was a public holiday, some government offices were open so that those who had lost identity cards could get replacements and then cast their ballots.
Inside polling stations, voters were given three ballot papers: one for their presidential pick, another for member of parliament and a third for local councilor. Polling officers helped voters put each ballot paper in the right box.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of
The Philippine army chief yesterday expressed outrage over the fatal police shooting of four soldiers, including two officers, and demanded justice, as both sides provided contrasting accounts of the killings. Philippine Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Ano, a retired military chief of staff who now oversees the national police, ordered that the police involved in Monday’s violence in Jolo in Sulu Province be disarmed and restricted for investigation. Police said the soldiers were killed in a “misencounter” with a group of police officers. The army said that the two officers and two enlisted men were on a mission against