Delays have marked voting in Zimbabwe as the Southern African country conducts its second general election since the ouster of longtime ruler Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup.
Twelve presidential candidates are on Wednesday’s ballot, but the main contest is expected to be between the 80-year-old incumbent, Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile,” and 45-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
Mnangagwa, who narrowly beat Chamisa in a disputed election in 2018, is seeking a second and what would be his final five-year term.
Chamisa hopes to break the ruling ZANU-PF party’s 43-year hold on power. Zimbabwe has had only two leaders since gaining independence from white minority rule in 1980, and both belonged to the ZANU-PF.
A run-off would be held on October 2 if no candidate wins a majority of the vote in the first round. The election will also determine the makeup of the 350-seat parliament and nearly 2,000 local council positions.
“It’s becoming tougher to survive in this country,” said Basil Chendambuya, an early voter in a working-class township in Harare. “I am hoping for change. This is my third time to vote, and I am praying hard that this time my vote counts. I am getting desperate, so God has to intervene this time round.”
The father of three said his two adult children are working menial jobs and surviving “hand to mouth”.
The nation of 15 million people has vast mineral resources, including Africa’s largest reserves of lithium, a key component in making electric car batteries. But watchdogs have long alleged that widespread corruption and mismanagement have gutted much of the country’s potential and is has been in an economic crisis for years.