♦ President Mnangagwa, Chamisa in tight race
♦ Runoff in Sept possible if no candidate wins more than half the votes
Zimbabweans yesterday voted in the first election since former president Robert Mugabe was ousted in a de facto coup, with allegations of voter suppression raising fears of a disputed result.
Nelson Chamisa, the main challenger to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-time Mugabe ally, gave no evidence for his claim that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was impeding voting in urban areas where he enjoys strong support.
"The people's will being negated & undetermined due to these deliberate & unnecessary delays," Chamisa tweeted.
The ZEC was not immediately available to comment. It has denied Chamisa's previous allegations of bias.
A credible election is essential if Zimbabwe is to exit painful sanctions and secure the donor funding needed to stem chronic cash shortages.
Chamisa said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would win if there was no "ballot mischief", making it likely he will challenge the outcome if Mnangagwa prevails, something likely to lead to street protests and possible violence.
While absent from the ballot paper for the first time since independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe emerged from eight months of obscurity on the eve of the election to announce he would vote for the opposition, surprising former ally Mnangagwa who accused him of striking a deal with Chamisa.
Mugabe, 94, one of the last "Big Men" of African politics, made no comment to reporters as he cast his ballot around lunchtime accompanied by his wife, Grace. A huge crowd gathered outside, some cheering, many booing.
Opinion polls give the 75-year-old former intelligence chief only a slim lead over Chamisa, 40. There will be a runoff on September 8 if no candidate wins more than half the votes.