Zimbabwe will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on July 30 President Emmerson Mnangagwa said, a vote he promises will be free and fair with international monitoring after 94-year-old strongman Robert Mugabe was ousted last year.
Mnangagwa, who took power after the November military coup against Mugabe, counts on the election to bolster his legitimacy as he pursues a promised break with Mugabe’s repressive policies while urging foreign investors to return to Zimbabwe.
Missing from the July ballot for the first time in 20 years will be Zimbabwe’s foremost political gladiators, Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the long-time opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader who died of cancer in February.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) picked companies in southern Africa to print ballot papers and supply voting ink. The MDC wanted printing of ballots put to an open tender, but this was rejected by government.
ZEC chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba told reporters the commission’s partners, including UN agencies, would provide a quarter of the $198 million budget needed for the elections.
Mnangagwa invited the Commonwealth to monitor voting in Zimbabwe for the first time since 2002 when Harare was suspended from the group over accusations of rigged elections. He has applied for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth.
If the election is approved by international monitors, it could be a key step to unlocking foreign lending to Zimbabwe, largely cut off for two decades.
The vote is being cast as a fight between the old guard of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war and a younger generation.
Mnangagwa’s main challenger is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa from the MDC, who has energised the party, drawing huge crowds at rallies in some ruling ZANU-PF party’s rural redoubts.
Sixty percent of the 5.4 million voters on the new register are under 50 years old, according to official data.
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed an application by Zimbabweans living abroad to be allowed to vote. The court did not immediately give a reason.
In a brief statement in an official government gazette, Mnangagwa said he fixed July 30 “as the day of the election of the president, the election of members of the national assembly and election of councillors.”
Prospective candidates will be registered on June 14.