Three people have been killed in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare after troops opened fire on rioting opposition supporters after the country’s first post-Robert Mugabe election.
Automatic gunfire crackled in the streets of Zimbabwe on Wednesday as the governing ZANU-PF party deployed the army to disperse protesters who clashed with police.
It came after the main opposition leader Nelson Charmisa from the MDC Alliance accused the ruling party of trying to rig Monday’s election.
As of Thursday morning (AEST), no presidential result has been declared.
While the ruling ZANU-PF party looks set to retain power, the MDC Alliance insists that its Mr Chamisa won Monday’s election.
European Union observers questioned the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary poll, Zimbabwe’s first since Robert Mugabe was forced to resign following a de facto coup in November after nearly 40 years in power.
The observers expressed concern about delays in releasing the results of the presidential contest.
The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Mr Chamisa, said on Twitter he had won the “popular vote” in Monday’s election, in which he challenged Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa from the ZANU-PF.
Mr Mnangagwa also took to Twitter, calling for calm and urging patience before the results were announced.
Opposition supporters burnt tyres in Harare, blocking streets and engaging in running battles with police who fired water cannon to disperse protesters.
Soldiers then arrived, jumping out of several armoured personnel carriers with gunfire heard as an army helicopter flew in the skies.
“I was making a peaceful protest. I was beaten by soldiers,” said Norest Kemvo, who had gashes to his face and right hand.
“This is our government. This is exactly why we wanted change. They are stealing our election.”
Another protester, Colbert Mugwenhi said: “Why are the army here beating us? Shooting us? This is not an election it is a disgrace on our country.”
A Reuters witness saw soldiers with sticks beat two people and counted at least five trucks full of soldiers.
With three seats yet to be declared, ZANU-PF had 144 seats compared to 61 for the MDC, meaning the ruling party achieved a two-thirds majority which would allow it to change the constitution at will.
Mr Chamisa accused ZANU-PF of trying to steal the election. He accused the commission of releasing the parliamentary results first to prepare Zimbabweans for a Mnangagwa victory.
“The strategy is meant to prepare Zimbabwe mentally to accept fake presidential results. We’ve more votes than ED (Emmerson Dambudzo). We won the popular vote (and) will defend it,” Mr Chamisa said on Twitter.
The EU’s Chief Observer, Elmar Brok, said he did not yet know if the shortcomings would have a material effect on the outcome of the vote, and criticised the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for being at times “one-sided”.
The EU did not understand why the release of the presidential result was taking so long, he said.
Zimbabwe Police dealing with MDC supporters protesting the delay in release of Presidential Election Results pic.twitter.com/nK2d5vpkqY
— Dominic Chimhavi (@DChimhavi) August 1, 2018
“The longer it lasts that the results of the presidential election is not known, the more lack of credibility it provides,” Mr Brok said.
“The presidential results were counted first in the polling stations therefore I have still to learn why it will be published last.”
Zimbabwe voters traditionally pick a presidential candidate based on their party affiliation and the trend in the parliamentary election was expected to continue when results for the president are announced this week.
Mr Chamisa’s MDC won in most urban centres, where it enjoys majority support. One independent candidate and a member from a party linked to Mr Mugabe also won one seat each.