Harare — Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu-PF party took a significant lead in Zimbabwe’s presidential election race on Thursday, ahead of his main opponent Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, according to official results.
With nine out of 10 provinces declared, Mnangagwa had 2,147,505 votes to Chamisa’s 1,929,704, according to tallies from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which annonced the results at 10pm on Thursday.
The result from the last province of Mashonaland West, a Zanu-PF stronghold, was due to be released later.
Zimbabwe has been bracing itself for the release of results in the landmark presidential elections — the first since the ousting of former president Robert Mugabe — which have already sparked a deadly crackdown on protesters.
Six people were killed on Wednesday when troops fired live rounds against MDC demonstrators alleging the vote had been rigged.
Soldiers and police cleared central Harare ahead of the results announcement, shouting at pedestrians and traders to leave, as the MDC continued to charge that Zanu-PF had stolen the election.
Earlier on Thursday, Nelson Chamisa had claimed victory in the disputed presidential election as the anxious nation awaited the official announcement of the result three days after voting ended.
Chamisa said Mnangagwa knew he had lost otherwise the results would have been announced.
International observers had urged ZEC to release the results as soon as possible to avoid further violence.
Also on Thursday, police sealed off the MDC’s offices and troops cleared the streets of the capital, despite calls from foreign governments and international organisations for calm and restraint by political leaders.
In his first public appearance since Monday, Chamisa urged his supporters to be calm and await “massive celebrations” for his victory.
He could not give any figures because he would be breaking the law, he said.
“This government does not respect life,” he said.
“Mr Mnangagwa knows that he has lost this election. If he had won, the result will have been announced long back, but they are trying to massage the figures to try to advance fictitious and fallacious results. We know the results.”
On Wednesday, Chamisa had accused Zanu-PF party of rigging the poll, without offering any evidence.