Zimbabwe’s president Wednesday announced July 30 as the date for general elections, the first to be held without the participation of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, 94, was forced to resign last November after holding power in the Southern African nation for over 35 years.
In an official statement, current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, said that he had set July 30 “as the day of the election of the president, the election of members of the national assembly, and election of councillors.”
Mnangagwa, who took the country’s reins after a military operation that dethroned Mugabe, has made repeated promises to deliver free and fair elections this year.
On the same day the date for elections was announced, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ruled that Zimbabweans living in the diaspora cannot vote.
Also set to be missing from the July ballot for the first time in 20 years will be former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, also former head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who succumbed to colon cancer this February.
Zimbabwe’s much-anticipated polls will pit Mnangagwa against a myriad of political rivals, including Nelson Chamisa, 40, who controversially took the MDC-T's helm hours after Tsvangirai’s death.
Candidates for the elections must register by June 14.
Vowing to end Mugabe’s culture of political violence, Mnangagwa has invited election observers from all over the world, including the EU, Commonwealth nations, and countries that used to be hostile to Mugabe’s government.
Past polls in Zimbabwe have been marred by irregularities, resulting in the country being hit by economic sanctions from Western countries such as the U.S.
In 2008, then-President Mugabe was reported to have lost to Tsvangirai in first-round results that were withheld for over a month before Mugabe called for a runoff, which saw a bloody campaign by members of the Zanu-PF militia, resulting in hundreds of opposition political activists being murdered.
A unity government followed in which Tsvangirai served as prime minister in a power-sharing deal brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
© Copyright Andolu Ajansi