UN chief concerned about situation in Zimbabwe after election marred by irregularities
UN chief Antonio Guterres has raised concern about the situation in Zimbabwe, where tensions are rising after a disputed election, with critics inside and outside the southern African country criticized the re-election of incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa does not appear to reflect the will of the people.
Mnangagwa was reelected with 52.6% of the vote, avoiding a runoff with rival Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). The opposition immediately contested the results, with Chamisa calling the vote “fraught with unprecedented illegality” and describing the results as “doctored” and “criminal”. International election observers stressed that there had been problems with the poll, citing specifically an atmosphere of intimidation against Chamisa’s supporters. Guterres’ spokesperson said the UN chief was closely following developments in Zimbabwe after the hotly contested election and “is concerned about the arrest of observers, reports of voter intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and coercion”.
The elections took place amid censored media coverage and new, draconian laws like the Patriotic Bill, which even authorizes the death penalty for anyone found guilty of “willfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” that many see as the government’s tool to suppress political opponents. “When you’ve got all that going on and can only win with 52% of the vote, that’s pretty remarkable,” says Nic Cheeseman, an analyst and democracy scholar at the University of Birmingham. “This result shows us the depth of public anger against the government.” As Zimbabwe’s security forces have also a history of cracking down on protesters around election time, it does not come as a surprise that 41 election monitors were reportedly arrested in multiple raids and their computers and mobile phones were seized during the vote. “The secretary-general calls on political leaders and their supporters to reject violence, threats of violence or incitement to violence, and to ensure human rights and the rule of law are fully respected,” Guerres’ spokesperson said.