Voting ends peacefully in Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe election

(180730) -- HARARE, July 30, 2018 (Xinhua) -- People queue to vote in Kuwadzana, Harare, Zimbabwe, July 30, 2018. Zimbabweans began voting on Monday in the African country's first presidential election since former head of state Robert Mugabe resigned in November. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuliang)(rh)

People queue to vote in Kuwadzana, Harare, Zimbabwe, July 30, 2018. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuliang)

HARARE, July 30 (Xinhua) — Polling closed Monday night in Zimbabwe with election authorities reporting high voter turnout throughout the country.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) commissioner Qubani Moyo said voting went on smoothly and peacefully around the country, with vote counting expected to start soon after closing of polls at 7 p.m.

“We have received positive feedback in terms of high turnout in provinces. People voted in peace and tranquility and we had very few incidences or anomalies being recorded in the voting process,” Moyo said.

He said results of National Assembly and local authority elections were expected to start from early Tuesday morning while presidential results are expected by Aug. 4.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. with long queues characterizing most polling stations in an election in which voters were electing the president, members of parliament and local government representatives.

A record 23 candidates are taking part in the presidential vote. However, the election mainly pits incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa against opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, both of whom have promised to focus on the country’s ailing economy if elected.

Mnangagwa cast his ballot Monday morning in Kwekwe, in his home province of Midlands.

His main rival Chamisa also cast his vote in the capital Harare.

Mnangagwa told reporters soon after casting his vote that Zimbabwe was enjoying an unprecedented democratic space.

He also said former president Robert Mugabe was entitled to express his views.

Mugabe, who resigned in November last year following a military intervention, said Sunday he will vote for the opposition, dumping the ruling ZANU-PF party which he founded in 1963.

“I can assure you that this country is enjoying democratic space which has never been experienced before. The former president has his right to express his views,” Mnangagwa said.

Mugabe, whom was accompanied by his wife Grace and daughter Bona Chikore, cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Harare.

Several people interviewed by Xinhua said they hoped that the elections would usher in a new era where the economy thrives and Zimbabweans enjoy a higher quality of life.

Katsande of Bluff Hill, Harare West constituency, said he arrived at the polling station at a nearby school at 4 a.m., although polling would start at 7.

“I wanted to be early and was the first to arrive here. I am excited about casting my vote,” he said.

Chiwada of Kuwadzana, Harare West constituency, said he hoped that whoever won the elections should honor their promises to the electorate.

“They gave us lots of promises and we are voting for them in good faith. I hope they will do the same and ensure that those promises come to fruition,” he said.

In an effort to demonstrate openness, Zimbabwe invited more than 60 countries and key international organizations to observe the elections. The Commonwealth, European Union, African Union, SADC and COMESA have sent observer groups to Zimbabwe.

There are 5.6 million people who registered to vote in the polls.