Zimbabwe has voted in large numbers for the first time after the removal of authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe,94, last year. The voter turnout was over 75%.
There is an evident wave of excitement since there are many firsts in this election. Not only a big chunk of the eligible voters have voted for the first time, almost half of the registered voters are under the age of 35. This makes the expectations high from the opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, 40, who could turn out to be the youngest president, if he wins this election.
Chamisa, became an MP at the age of 25 and later a cabinet minister from Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He has promised to rebuild the country’s’ crumbled economy. As per the opinion polls, he is expected to give a tough fight to Emmerson Mnangagwa,75, of ZANU-PF, also known as “the Crocodile”.
Mnangagwa has pledged to revive a moribund economy, attract foreign investment and mend racial and tribal divisions. Both the candidates are looking forward towards a majority.
This is the first time in 16 years that EU and US observers have been allowed to monitor Zimbabwe elections. Mr Mnangagwa invited the international observers to witness the poll as part of his attempts to end Zimbabwe’s isolation, and to secure investments to rebuild the shattered economy. Mr Mugabe had a bad relationship with Western powers, accusing them of undermining Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and trying to topple him.
Interestingly, this is the first time that Mr. Mugabe had to vote for a presidential candidate other than himself. Though he made it clear through a press conference on Sunday that he is not backing his former ally Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The high turnout of voters showed that Zimbabweans were enthusiastic about voting, without any kind of repression. This is an exciting moment for Zimbabweans to change the course of their country through their votes.
Whoever wins will face the mammoth task of putting Zimbabwe back on track after 37 years of Mugabe rule that was tainted by corruption, mismanagement and diplomatic isolation, sending one of Africa’s most promising economies into crisis.