Harare, Zimbabwe – On August 23, Zimbabweans head to the polls to choose the country’s next president in what political pundits believe will be a tight race.
Eleven candidates are vying for the top position.
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But the race is largely seen as a rematch between Nelson Chamisa, the 45-year-old opposition leader and the man who defeated him in the 2018 presidential election, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the incumbent president.
Mnangagwa, 80, who took over the reins from Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first president, after a November 2017 coup, is the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Chamisa has led the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) since it was formed in January 2022 after a split from the Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance, previously the leading opposition party.
The field also includes activist and constitutional law professor Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constituent Assembly.
Douglas Mwonzora, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) withdrew his candidacy on August 8 saying the election is a farce, but the electoral commission has said the ballot papers had already been printed.
A total of 6.5 million people have registered to vote across the 12,340 polling stations in the country’s 10 provinces.
This is the ninth election since independence in 1980 for the country of an estimated 15.5 million people.
How often are elections held?
According to the 2013 Constitution, Zimbabwe must hold general elections after every five years. The last election was held in July 2018.
Who can stand for election?
Political parties and independent candidates can participate in the elections. Candidates are required to pay a nomination fee; for 2023, the fee was set at $1,000 for parliamentary candidates and $20,000 for presidential candidates.
What are the key issues in the election?
- The state of the country’s economy is likely to be a core concern for voters. Zimbabwe continues to face significant economic challenges, including high unemployment rates, hyperinflation, and the currency’s loss of more than 80 percent of its value to the dollar just this year.
- Corruption has been a longstanding problem in Zimbabwe, eroding public trust in the government. Earlier this year, a four-part Al Jazeera documentary series with shocking revelations of gold smuggling by individuals linked to the government, triggered outrage in the country.
- Inadequacy of quality healthcare, education, energy and basic services is often a pressing concern for citizens in Zimbabwe.
Will citizens vote only for the presidency?
Besides the presidential election, Zimbabweans will also elect local council representatives and members of parliament.
Since the 2013 Constitution, the National Assembly of Zimbabwe, the lower house of Zimbabwe’s parliament, comprises 270 members. Of those, 210 representatives are elected through single-member constituencies.
The remaining 60 seats are specifically designated for women and are allocated using proportional representation across 10 constituencies, each containing six seats. This proportional representation was based on the geographical divisions of the country’s provinces. On the day of the election, each voter casts a single ballot, a decisive factor in the distribution of seats to the respective parties for both categories of seats.
The Senate has 80 members.
How do people vote?
- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the constitutional body that runs the country’s elections, oversees the voter registration process, where eligible citizens aged 18 and above can register to vote. Registration centres are set up across the country, and citizens are required to provide proof of identity and residency to be included in the voter roll.
- On election day, polling stations are set up across the country. These stations are staffed by polling officials who are trained to manage the voting process. Each station caters to a specific number of registered voters, and the location of polling stations is made public in advance.
- On arrival at their designated polling station, registered voters present their identification, and their names are checked against the voter roll.
- They are then given a ballot paper, which they mark in secret to indicate their preferred candidate. The ballot papers are then placed in a secure ballot box.
- After voting, a voter dips his or her finger in indelible ink. After voting ends, the ballot boxes are transported to designated counting centres.
- The ballot papers are carefully counted, usually in the presence of political party agents and observers to ensure transparency. The results from each polling station are recorded and tallied. The ZEC collates, verifies, and aggregates the results from all the polling stations to determine the total number of votes received by each candidate. This process is overseen by the ZEC and observed by political party agents and independent observers.
- The winning candidate is determined based on the highest number of valid votes cast.
How does a presidential candidate win?
- For a presidential candidate to be declared winner, he or she must receive more than 50 percent of the vote.
- If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election is held between the two candidates with the highest number of votes.
- By law, the runoff should typically be held within 28-42 days after the initial election.
When will we know the results?
According to Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act, results for any of the elections should be announced within five days from the close of polling.
What happens if a candidate feels cheated?
- If a presidential candidate is unhappy with an election outcome, they can seek legal recourse by appealing to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe. The candidate or their representatives can approach the court within seven days after election results are announced and after exhausting all available legal remedies to address their grievances.
- The court will then hear and determine the election dispute, and its decision will be final and binding. According to the Electoral Act, any election challenge or petition must be lodged within seven days after the announcement of the election results. The Constitutional Court then has a maximum of 14 days to hear and determine the matter.