“We are proud to be an independent and sovereign nation,” Mnangagwa said. He thanked “various election observation missions that observed our election processes impartially”. Zimbabwe continues to call on all our guests to respect our national institutions.

The head of the National Electoral Commission (ZEC), Justice Chigumba, told journalists on Saturday that Mnangangwa was the “duly elected President of the Republic of Zimbabwe”. The 80-year-old received 52.6 percent of the votes, his opposition challenger Nelson Chamisa got 44 percent of the votes.

According to Chigumba, Mnangagwa of the ZANU-PF party, which has been in power for decades, received more than 2.3 million votes – giving him the majority needed to avoid a runoff election. More than 1.9 million people voted for Chamisa from the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC). According to the election commission, voter turnout was almost 69 percent.

Zimbabwe’s leading opposition party immediately rejected the election results. “We cannot accept the results,” CCC spokesman Promise Mkwanzi told AFP. “We have not confirmed the results because they are biased.” The “context of the elections and the primaries” was “not favorable” for the CCC in particular. The party will announce its next steps shortly.

Political expert Rejoice Ngwenya said when asked that the CCC had “good reasons to go to court and contest the result”. The elections were “riddled with irregularities” and “angered the people of Zimbabwe”.

On Friday, election observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) denounced certain aspects of the presidential and parliamentary elections as undemocratic. The regional block criticized, among other things, the cancellation of opposition rallies, biased reporting by the state media and alleged intimidation of voters. This does not meet “the requirements of the Zimbabwe Constitution, the Electoral Code and the SADC Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections,” said the head of the election observer delegation, Nevers Mumba.

There had been delays in the printing of ballot papers in many key districts, particularly in the opposition-dominated capital Harare. Because of the delays, President Mnangagwa had extended the elections by one day.

Chaos in some constituencies fueled allegations of manipulation by the opposition. “This is a clear case of voter suppression, a classic case of stone-age (…) fraud,” opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said on Wednesday.

Observers had expected Mnangagwa to be re-elected. Zimbabwe has been ruled by ZANU-PF since gaining independence from British colonial power in 1980. Citizens of the South African country are struggling with the rising cost of living due to high inflation, deep-seated poverty and an ailing economy.

First, the autocrat Robert Mugabe was in power for 37 years. When the military staged a coup against the head of state in 2017, Mugabe’s deputy, Mnangagwa, came into office.

During protests in 2018 following the disputed and violent presidential election won by Mnangagwa, the army fired live ammunition, killing at least six protesters in the capital.