The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced late August 2 that the incumbent Emerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won the country’s presidential election. Mnangagwa’s victory follows the ruling party’s majority win in the country’s parliamentary elections as well.
Mnangagwa defeated his principal rival, Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party, by a vote of 2.46 million to 2.15 million, or a percentage win of 51% to 44%. The victory, while close, assures the ruling party of continuing its gradualist, reformist approach of liberalizing the Zimbabwean political-economy since it replaced the administration of former President Robert Mugabe, whom it overthrew in a palace coup in December 2017.
The elections outcome is unsurprising to Geomarkets Africa clients, who have appreciated tracking the reforms and initiatives the Mnangagwa administration has conducted since it anticipated winning the highly pressurized elections. The Mnangagwa administration had prepared extensively to convene the elections, including welcoming domestic and foreign observers – from the African Union as well as the European Union and beyond – to oversee the broadly free and fair conduct of the voting processes. Given the relative openness the Mnangagwa administration conveyed compared to its predecessor government led by the now-deposed President Robert Mugabe, the incumbent Zimbabwean government has been impressive in the provision of democratic space throughout the southern African country.
The relatively close nature of the elections outcome will mean, however, that the incumbent Mnangagwa-led government will, in the following weeks, narrow its focus to assert stability over Zimbabwe’s constellation of geopolitical forces, before it continues with its reformist governance model. Chamisa’s MDC will surely challenge the ZANU-PF victory in the country’s courtrooms and on the streets. But given the demonstrable balance of power favoring the incumbent regime, who have preemptively deployed military and security forces to disrupt Chamisa’s reactionary protest behavior, the liberalized approach to the Zimbabwean political economy presided over by the newly elected ZANU-PF is now renewed thanks to the validation affirmed by Zimbabwean voters.