Zimbabwe Vote Continues for Second Day After Delays Dog Process

(Bloomberg) -- Voting in Zimbabwe continued for a second day in some areas on Thursday after delays and logistical problems prevented some people from casting their ballots.

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The extension was announced in a government gazette late Wednesday. Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said in an interview that he had requested President Emmerson Mnangagwa to allow the process to continue “so that people from the affected areas are not disenfranchised.”

Mnangagwa is expected to be reelected despite a long-running economic crisis in the resource-rich country that has led to the near-collapse of government services. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the government of undermining civil liberties over the past five years and closing the political space for the opposition.

The 80-year-old Mnangagwa praised the turnout as he cast his ballot in his rural constituency on Wednesday. “This time around, there was more awareness,” he told reporters.

More than three-quarters of polling stations in the capital, Harare, and others in Bulawayo, the second-largest city, opened late as observers criticized the slow delivery of ballot papers. European Union observers are due to present their preliminary findings on Friday.

After casting his ballot in Harare, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa criticized the way the election was being run but expressed confidence he would prevail.

“There is going to be a new leader, a new president, a new government,” he told reporters.

Chamisa, who continues to dispute the results of the 2018 vote, and his party, the Citizens Coalition for Change, had to file lawsuits to overturn the disqualification of its lawmaker candidates. Another opposition party boycotted the vote after scores of its nominees were prevented from running, and many observers believe the election was decided before it had even began.

Read more: Odds Stacked Against Zimbabwe Opposition as Election Nears

The police said they had arrested 41 people who were suspected of subverting the electoral process and several laptops, mobile phones and other equipment was seized during a raid on four properties in Harare late Wednesday.

“The equipment was being used to unlawfully tabulate election voting statistics and results from polling stations,” Paul Nyathi, the police spokesperson, told reporters. “These figures were being supplied by some observers and political party agents.”

Under Zimbabwean law, the results must released within five days of the election.

Winning a tainted vote may derail efforts by Mnangagwa, who’s held power since longtime ruler Robert Mugabe was ousted in a 2017 coup, to restructure the nation’s $18 billion of debt arrears. Creditors including the African Development Bank have warned that any deal would be contingent on a credible contest.

The incumbent has insisted that the vote will be free and fair and has vowed he won’t serve beyond a constitutionally-mandated second term should he win. His Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front has ruled the country since independence from the UK in 1980.

--With assistance from Desmond Kumbuka and Monique Vanek.

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