Tension brews in Zimbabwe as opposition disputes election results

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The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's decision to delay announcing the results of the presidential race at least until Thursday - three days after the vote - seemed certain to bring more opposition anger if President Emmerson Mnangagwa is declared the victor.

Shortly after the violence erupted on Wednesday President Emmerson Mnangagwa took to Twitter, blaming the opposition for deadly violence in the capital that he said was "meant to disrupt the electoral process".

These revelations come as opposition parties accused the ruling Zanu-PF of trying to steal the presidential and parliamentary election.

Soldiers are now on the streets of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, a day after they fired at demonstrating opposition MDC Alliance supporters who argued that the election results were being rigged.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on Wednesday said it would likely release results of the presidential election on Thursday (today) but there have since been reports of delays.

Twenty-three candidates - all first-time contenders - contested for the presidency.

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Like his rival, he has promised to transform a country which has been paralysed for two decades. Elections under Mugabe were often undermined by violence, rigging and voter intimidation.

In his first public appearance since the vote on Monday, Chamisa urged his supporters to be calm and await "massive celebrations" for his victory. At least three protesters have been shot and killed.

"Zimbabwean authorities had a duty to facilitate this in a peaceful manner, without deploying the army to the streets", he said.

"The population wants the presidential election results and they believe the electoral commission is delaying as it cooks the numbers", he said. Elections under Mugabe's 37-year rule were marked by violence against the opposition and alleged fraud.

While the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) insists the election was fair, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has raised an array of fraud allegations.

Wednesday's violence, which followed a relatively orderly election, dashes Mnangagwa's hopes of repairing the image of a country that had become synonymous with corruption and economic collapse under Mugabe.

Former Ghanaian president John Mahama, who chairs the group, said: "We categorically denounce the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians".

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The party's officials earlier declared victory in the presidential poll despite ZEC not releasing the results.

A wounded man takes shelter in a market stall in Harare as protests turned violent.

The EU observer mission said "a truly level playing field was not achieved" in the election, pointing out the "misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media".

Mnangagwa had promised a free and fair vote after the military ushered him to power with a credible vote meant to end Zimbabwe's global isolation and attract foreign investment to revive the shattered economy.

The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the capital's streets since a military takeover led to the ouster of Mugabe in November.

In an indication of the growing tension, a crowd of about 100 MDC supporters gathered outside a Harare hotel where election results were being announced but police blocked the entrance to the building, a Reuters witness said.

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Zimbabwe election violence: "People are desperate and angry".

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