Zimbabwe holds final rallies before historic presidential election

Presidential candidates in Zimbabwe have held their final rallies before Monday’s election, but questions have been raised about how the vote is being run.

The elections will be a first for many of Zimbabwe’s estimated 5.3 million voters – long-time Robert Mugabe’s name will not be on the ballot, having resigned in November after 37 years.

The 94-year-old stepped down as president after a military takeover and pressure from ZANU-PF – the party that had once supported him.

Incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, had been his deputy but stepped up to take the top job.

Mr Mnangagwa’s main challenger on Monday will be Nelson Chamisa, 40, of the MDC party.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in the capital Harare on Saturday, Mr Mnangagwa said that hundreds of investors had come into the country since he took office, bringing massive financial promises.

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The leader of the MDC Alliance Nelson Chamisa tells Sky News that he is unconvinced by President Mnangagwa’s transformation.

He assured them of a “thunderous victory” in the election, adding: “We have opened the country to the world”.

Many of those listening, however, are still waiting to see the benefits of this promised investment: despite having been one of Africa’s wealthiest countries, Zimbabwe’s economy deteriorated rapidly after 2000.

Mr Chamisa has promised a convincing win, saying Mr Mnangagwa’s “time is up”, adding: “If we miss our opportunity on Monday, we are doomed for life”.Mr Mnangagwa has promised the vote will be free and fair.

He wants the removal of international sanctions imposed after previous elections were overshadowed by claims of intimidation and violence.

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Mr Mugabe had banned foreign election observers but his successor has welcomed teams from the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Commonwealth.

This has not stopped claims that soldiers have been sent to rural areas to influence voters and that the voters’ roll is flawed.

Mr Chamisa has alleged that Zimbabwe’s electoral commission is biased in favour of Mr Mnangagwa – an accusation that has been denied – and he has threatened to hold peaceful protests if the election is not fair.

Also, millions of Zimbabweans living outside the country, many who fled during previous decades of turmoil, will not be able to vote unless they travel home.

A record 23 candidates are running for president and election day has been made a national holiday.