Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has said he was “winning resoundingly” but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said official results were yet to be announced.
Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said on Tuesday that his party had the results from 10,000 polling stations.
“Winning resoundingly… We’ve done exceedingly well,” Chamisa, 40, posted on Twitter.
The opposition leader said his party was ready to form the next government following the first elections since long-term President Robert Mugabe was removed from office last year.
Voters cast their ballots at more than 10,000 polling stations across the country of more than 16 million people.
Hours after the opposition leader made the claim, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF said he was “positive” of the election outcome.
“I am delighted by the high turnout and citizen engagement so far. The information from our reps on the ground is extremely positive!” Mnangagwa, 75, said on Twitter.
The president added that he was waiting for the official results from the Electoral Commission, which had urged the contesting candidates to wait for final results before making any announcements.
“We will announce the result as they come in, and all stakeholders are hereby reminded that it is unlawful to announce results…,” Priscilla Chigumba, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chief, said on Tuesday.
“The announcement of election results by unofficial sources has the potential to mislead the public and raise unnecessary political emotions,” she said.
Relatively peaceful elections
Experts say the candidates are making the victory claims before the results have been announced because they do not want to look like they have lost the poll.
“Silence would be ideal, but it’s impractical,” Chipo Dendere, professor of political science at Amherst College in Boston, told Al Jazeera.
“Social media makes the landscape tricky. People can’t help but make some type of announcement when the process is taking this long,” Dendere said.
“If you’re a candidate you have a base to keep energised too – you don’t want to look like you’re conceding and yet the results just aren’t out yet,” she said.
Previous elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by intimidation and threats, but campaigning this time has been relatively peaceful.
Elections observers from the European Union and the United States have also been allowed to monitor the vote – the first time since 2002.
Twenty-three candidates, 19 men and four women, contested for the presidency – all first-time contenders. It is the first time in the country’s history that such a high number of candidates has run for the presidency.
More than five million Zimbabweans registered to take part in the poll. The Electoral Commission said 1.3 percent of the registered voters could not cast their vote because they presented the wrong documents at polling stations.
Official results are expected to be released by Saturday.
A presidential runoff will be held on September 8 if a candidate does not secure more than 50 percent of the vote.