Zimbabwe Holds First Elections Since Ousting Of Robert Mugabe
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Today is the first election in Zimbabwe without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. The longtime president was ousted last year by his former vice president who's now running to stay in office. He's got stiff competition from a younger opponent. The results are not in yet, but many people there are worried about whether they'll be accepted peacefully. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from Harare. Hey, Eyder.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: First, can you just tell us more about these top candidates? Who are they?
PERALTA: Yep. So you have Emmerson Mnangagwa. He, for a long time, was Robert Mugabe's enforcer. He served as his vice president, and now he is running against that legacy. And then you have Nelson Chamisa, who's a lawyer. He's a pastor, and he's kind of a powerhouse. He - you know, he has great oratory skills, and he's really young. He's 40 years old. And compared to Mugabe, who was in his 90s when he stepped down, he's really young. But what's interesting about these two guys is they're both in some ways, running on the same platform, which is a platform of change, a platform that Zimbabwe needs a new way forward.
CHANG: And as you've traveled around the country today, what has the voting been like? Has it been relatively smooth?
PERALTA: It has, remarkably smooth. You know, some of the observers that I've spoken to said that, you know, they saw some irregularities. I saw some myself - one woman who said that when she showed up at 5 o'clock - at 5 in the morning to the polling place...
PERALTA: ...You know, she was stopped by people who wanted to take her name. And these are intimidation tactics that have been used before in Zimbabwe quite a lot. And I also spoke to Faris Mashava (ph). In 2008, this country had incredible political violence, and he had to flee the country because of that political violence. And he said, today, it was different. Today (inaudible) able to go into the polling booth and vote his heart. Let's listen to a bit of what he said.
FARIS MASHAVA: The outcome is what we are trying to see - whether they will accept the defeat or not. But I'm not really confident that they'll accept it. It's not that easy.
CHANG: How are people - oh.
PERALTA: So what he's really saying is that basically the elections went fine, but the counting...
PERALTA: ...Is what's going to matter in this election.
CHANG: What about the mood out there? How are people feeling about this first election without Mugabe on the ballot?
PERALTA: You know, right now, I am in the middle of downtown Harare, and you hear silence. That's not very usual here. In fact, in previous elections, there had been celebrations on the streets right after people voted. They went to drink. They went to dance. And today that's not happening. I think Zimbabwe is holding its breath right now.
CHANG: And when do we expect results to come in?
PERALTA: So they will not come in tonight. One party official told me to expect them Wednesday. Constitutionally, they have until Saturday to give results.
CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Harare, Zimbabwe. Thank you, Eyder.
PERALTA: Thank you, Ailsa.
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