Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday registered as the ruling Zanu-PF party’s candidate for the July 30 elections.
He will will face 22 others in a general election that will be keenly watched by the international community.
The president’s toughest challenger, however, will be the 40-year-old, Mr Nelson Chamisa, who is leading a coalition of opposition parties under the MDC Alliance banner.
The youthful rival will be banking on a younger voting population.
On a decline
The July contest will be the first national poll since former President Robert Mugabe was toppled by the military in November last year.
President Mnangagwa and Mr Chamisa are campaigning on a pledge to revive Zimbabwe’s economy, which has been on a decline for the past two decades.
Mr Mugabe was blamed for the economic collapse and it was one of the reasons the army used to force him out after putting his family under house arrest.
President Mnangagwa, 75, a close confidante of Mr Mugabe until a dramatic fallout in November last year, is promising a free and fair election.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
He has invited Western observers and the European Union will be sending monitors for the first time since 2002.
Mr Chamisa took over the MDC leadership in February following the death of the opposition party’s founder Morgan Tsvangirai.
Thousands of other candidates successfully filed nomination papers for parliamentary and local government elections.
The opposition has accused the independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of denying them access to the voters’ roll.
“Regrettably, the failure by ZEC to avail political parties the voters roll prior to nomination day is a serious breach of the Electoral Act and the Constitution,” said MDC Alliance senior official David Coltart.
“This is a serious illegality.”
The opposition says it fears President Mnangagwa would manipulate the voters’ roll, but the Zimbabwe interim leader insists that “the playing field is perfectly level”.
Zimbabwe has a history of disputed election and the country has been isolated by the international community because of allegations that the ruling party was behind human rights violations and electoral fraud.
The July election will be the first one since 2002 where Mr Mugabe and the late Mr Tsvangirai will not be the major contestants.