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Zimbabweans vote in the first election since Mugabe's deselection



HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabweans will go to the polls on Monday for the first election since the removal of Robert Mugabe, a decision that will free the country from its global Pariah status and trigger a recovery in its failed economy.

Election posters will be displayed on the walls of apartments in the city of Mbare on 29 July 201

8 in Harare, Zimbabwe. REUTERS / Mike Hutchings

The election will see 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe, witness 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who will seek Zimbabwe's newest head of state.

Polls give former intelligence chief Mnangagwa, who took over as president after the army displaced Mugabe last November in a bloodless coup, only a slim lead over Chamisa. This will make it possible to run for a runoff on 8th September if no candidate wins more than half of the votes.

Mnangagwa, known as "the crocodile," an animal famous in Zimbabwe's tradition for its secrecy and ruthlessness, has committed itself to reviving a moribund economy, attracting foreign investment, and fighting racial and tribal populations.

"People say, and I share their beliefs that something special is coming to Zimbabwe," Mnangagwa said at his last rally in Harare's National Stadium.

"Once re-elected on Monday, with a genuine mandate for change and a full five-year term, I guarantee you that our country is" Go and Go. "My commitment is to bring about concrete change that will comfort all Zimbabweans Donate. "

Chamisa, a charismatic speaker who has honed his craft in the courtroom and on the pulpit, is winning young and unemployed voters who have been frustrated for nearly four decades. Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) Rule ,

"The momentum is huge, the victory is certain, there is nothing that could prevent the people of Zimbabwe from claiming their victory," Chamisa told reporters on Sunday.

"We're pulling out all the stops, we're doing everything we can to make sure we win this election."

In a surprise intervention on Sunday, Mugabe said he would vote for the opposition and turn on his erstwhile allies.

Mnangagwa later accused his former boss of signing a contract with Chamisa, but provided no evidence.

"The election is clear, either choose Mugabe under the guise of Chamisa or choose a new Zimbabwe under my leadership and ZANU-PF," said Mnangagwa in a video on his official Facebook page.

In order for Zimbabwe to be reintegrated into the international community to end painful sanctions and secure the donor funding program needed to curb chronic liquidity shortages, observers must at least view the vote as credible.

There have been reports of intimidation and coercion, and state media are biased towards ZANU-PF, but there is agreement that the process was better than before.

NEW ZIMBABWE?

Mnangagwa has welcomed foreign media and international observers from the European Union, the United States and the Commonwealth, while the opposition parties are free to camp.

Chamisa's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has already discredited the process. He accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of bias, citing obscure ballots and a voter directory that includes dead people and children.

The ZEC has repeatedly defended its independence.

While the election can not be judged to be "free and fair," analysts say it can be considered "good enough" when compared to the tactics and violent repression that falsified Mugabe votes.

Mnangagwa, often called "ED", has made great efforts to win the international community; attract Western ambassadors, court foreign investors, and even build relationships with white commercial farmers who were forcibly evicted from Mugabe's farms.

"Look what he did in just seven months, the place has changed," said Patrick Musemburi, a 37-year-old minibus taxi driver in the capital, Harare.

"Let him finish what he started."

In all his talk of a "new" Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa's opponents are trying to remind people that for five decades he has been a trusted lieutenant in Mugabe and has failed to make promises of change in the past.

"How long should we wait for things to get better?" ED is full of lies, just like the rest of the ZANU-PF, "said Chris Lore, a 26-year-old street vendor.

"Chamisa is young, he has the energy to get us the jobs we need, it's time for change, we've suffered enough."

Anyone who wins will have to face up to the mammoth task, Zimbabwe 37 years of reintroducing Mugabe rule of corruption, mismanagement and diplomatic isolation, and plunging one of Africa's most promising economies into a crisis.

Reporting by Joe Brock and Macdonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Adrian Croft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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