President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday called for Zimbabwe to unite behind him after he was declared winner of national elections, but the opposition leader insisted he had won and said he would use all means necessary to challenge the result.
Mnangagwa said his victory was won fairly and he had nothing to hide, although he criticised chaotic scenes where police shouting "clear out" chased away journalists waiting for a briefing by his main presidential election rival Nelson Chamisa.
Chamisa later told reporters Mnangagwa's ruling Zanu-PF had used deadly violence against opposition supporters following the vote because it had lost the election -- the first since the army removed 94-year-old Robert Mugabe from office in November.
"We are going to explore all necessary means, legal and constitutional, to ensure that the will of the people is protected," Chamisa said.
Voting passed off relatively smoothly on the day, raising hopes of a break from a history of disputed and violent polls.
But an army crackdown on opposition supporters in which six people were killed and opposition claims that the vote was rigged revealed the deep rifts in Zimbabwean society that developed during Mugabe's four decades in power, when the security forces became a byword for heavy-handedness.
After three days of claims and counterclaims, 75-year-old Mnangagwa - a former spy chief under Mugabe - secured victory.
Mnangagwa received 50.8 percent of the vote, just edging over the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff. The delays in announcing the presidential results and the narrow margin of victory fuelled the opposition accusations of rigging.
He now faces the challenge of persuading the international community that the army crackdown and lapses in the election process will not derail his promise of political and economic reforms needed to fix a moribund economy.