HARARE • Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa has won Zimbabwe's presidential election, a victory overshadowed by deadly protests, opposition allegations of rigging and criticism by observers that the contest was flawed.
The controversy surrounding the vote may undermine efforts to reunify the southern African nation and rebuild an economy battered by almost two decades of misrule under Mr Robert Mugabe, 94, who was forced to quit last November.
The country also risks a repeat of unrest that claimed six lives on Wednesday, when soldiers fired live rounds at fleeing demonstrators.
Mr Mnangagwa, 75, leader of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), secured 50.8 per cent of the vote, while his main rival Nelson Chamisa, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won 44.3 per cent, Ms Priscilla Chigumba, a judge who chairs the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, told reporters yesterday in the capital Harare. Results released on Wednesday showed Zanu-PF winning almost 70 per cent of the legislative vote.
"I am humbled to be elected president," Mr Mnangagwa said in a statement on Twitter. "Though we have been divided at the polls, we are united in our dreams."
Mr Chamisa, 40, insisted he and his party were the real victors.
"We have won the popular vote," he said on Twitter. "No amount of manipulation will alter your will."
The post-election violence will erode the international goodwill towards Zimbabwe since Mr Mnangagwa replaced Mr Mugabe as president and pledged to hold credible elections, according to Mr Christopher McKee, chief executive officer of New York-based risk advisory firm PRS Group.
"It matters little whether this heavy-handed response came on Mnangagwa's orders," Mr McKee said in e-mailed comments.
"Evidence that the President lacks the authority to control the security forces will be just as damning in terms of the impact on Zimbabwe's international rehabilitation," he added.
The integrity of the election was found lacking by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a local association of 34 civil rights and religious organisations that deployed about 6,500 election observers.
It said the ruling party used state resources to campaign and food aid to entice voters, and enjoyed more favourable media coverage. It also said the final voters' roll was released too late to analyse it.
China yesterday urged all sides in Zimbabwe to respect the result of the presidential election.
Mr Mnangagwa, who received military training in China when he was a young liberation fighter in the 1960s, was hailed by President Xi Jinping as an "old friend" of the Asian powerhouse when Mr Mnangagwa visited Beijing in April.
Zanu-PF's election pledges include an undertaking to respect property rights and maintain a stable and predictable business environment, while also ensuring the retail industry is reserved for black Zimbabweans and forcing mineral producers to process part of their output within the country to create jobs.
It is targeting US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) a year in foreign direct investment, up from the US$289 million the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says the country received last year.
Mr Mnangagwa has moved swiftly to restore calm and called for an independent investigation into Wednesday's violence. He said he had held talks with Mr Chamisa on ways to defuse the tension, offered condolences to the victims' families and described the deaths as a tragedy.
The police did not take a similarly conciliatory approach - they sealed off the opposition's headquarters in Harare after obtaining a search warrant to look for grenades, firearms, ammunition, computers and stones, and arrested 18 people.
They also secured warrants to search Mr Chamisa's residence and those of several other opposition leaders.
The streets of the capital were quiet early yesterday, with traffic thinner than usual. Water cannon and anti-riot police remained outside MDC offices, a reminder of the clashes between opposition and the security forces this week.
"We were expecting that these elections will bring change because we are struggling. But as things stand, it will get worse," one taxi driver told Reuters near the MDC offices.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE