The Latest: Counting underway in Zimbabwe's historic vote

The Latest: Counting underway in Zimbabwe's historic vote

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The Latest on Zimbabwe's election (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The last of Zimbabwe's voters have cast their ballots by the light of lanterns, candles and mobile phones as counting is underway in a historic election.

The final results are expected within five days in the first election since the departure of former leader Robert Mugabe, who led for 37 years but resigned in November under military pressure.

Voting was peaceful in a break from the violence in past elections. The electoral commission says the average turnout was above 70 percent.

Zimbabweans hope a credible vote will bring the lifting of international sanctions and the revival of a shattered economy.


7:20 p.m.

Zimbabwe's president is praising "a beautiful expression of freedom & democracy" after polls have closed in a historic election.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa says on Twitter that millions have voted in "mutual respect & peace." He urges the country to wait patiently for the electoral commission to announce the results.

Final results are expected within five days. Mnangagwa says that "no matter which way we voted, we are all brothers and sisters."

The election is the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure after 37 years in power. Past votes were marked by violence and irregularities.

Zimbabweans hope a credible vote will lift years of international sanctions and revive a shattered economy.


7:05 p.m.

Polls have closed in Zimbabwe's historic election, the first since the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

Millions have voted, turnout was high and the day was free of the violence that marked previous elections.

The 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe confidante, is in a close race with main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa. The 40-year-old Chamisa has called the election a choice between Zimbabwe's past and future.

Final election results are expected within five days.

A credible vote is key to lifting international sanctions and attracting foreign investment to revive Zimbabwe's shattered economy. The opposition has raised concerns about delays in urban areas and has vowed to protest if the election is flawed.


6:15 p.m.

It's the final hour of voting in Zimbabwe's historic election, with turnout high and free of the violence that marked previous years.

For the first time, former leader Robert Mugabe isn't on the ballot. Zimbabweans say they are eager for change after decades of turmoil and economic stagnation.

"Why would I fight my fellow Zimbabweans?" asks voter Tapiwa Kahondo. "I'm so happy for today, man. I'm so happy."

The opposition has raised concerns about delays in the voting in its stronghold urban areas, and it has warned it will organize peaceful protests if the elections are thought to be flawed.

One voter, Classified Chivese, says that "they may be peaceful but we don't know how credible they are."


5:30 p.m.

The head of the European Union mission monitoring Zimbabwe's elections says his team has seen "huge differences" in the pace of voting at polling stations.

Elmar Brok says voters at one location waited less than an hour to cast their ballots while others at a nearby station waited more than half the day.

"In some cases, it works very smoothly," Brok said. "But in others, we see that it's totally disorganized and that people become angry, that people leave."

He also points out a case of the ruling party delivering 100 people by bus to vote in a district where they didn't live.

Brok says observers have to check whether it's a single example or part of a pattern "which might have influence on the result of the elections."


1:45 p.m.

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader warns that "there seems to be a deliberate attempt to suppress and frustrate the urban vote."

Nelson Chamisa has expressed his concerns on Twitter but declares that "Victory is ours!"

The vote in Zimbabwe's major cities is crucial to the opposition while rural areas traditionally back the ruling party. That can benefit President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

People in line when polls close at 7 p.m. can vote. The electoral commission says the turnout is high and voting has been peaceful, a contrast to the violence seen in past votes under former leader Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule.

This is the first election without Mugabe on the ballot.


1:30 p.m.

Scores of chanting Zimbabweans have gathered to see 94-year-old former leader Robert Mugabe vote, despite his troubled legacy.

"We miss him. I last saw him ages ago," says 22-year-old Everjoy Tafirei, 22. Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure after 37 years in power.

"I just want to see him face to face, even shake his hand as someone I have supported all my life. I still feel like he is my hero," says 34-year-old Jacob Mucheche.

Mugabe struggled to walk into the polling station but raised his fist before entering, acknowledging the crowd.

The warm reception was a stark contrast to the grim faces as Mugabe's successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, voted earlier.


1:25 p.m.

Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe has voted in the country's first election without his name on the ballot.

Struggling to walk, the 94-year-old Mugabe raised his fist for chanting supporters. Then he slowly made his way into the polling center and had his finger inked, and was assisted by his wife into the booth.

Mugabe, who stepped down in November under military pressure, emerged after months of silence on Sunday to declare that he would not be voting for the ruling party he long controlled.

He indicated that 40-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa is the only viable candidate.

Voting so far in the southern African nation has been peaceful, with a high turnout, after years of elections marred by allegations of rigging and violence.


12:55 p.m.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it has referred to police at least two candidates who might have violated the law by campaigning after the cutoff time.

The chair of the commission is refusing to name names during a press conference but the candidates are likely President Emmerson Mnangagwa and main opposition challenger Nelson Chamisa. Both issued public statements on Sunday.

Campaigning ended 24 hours before polls opened Monday morning.

Violations could be turned into a criminal or civil case.

Zimbabwe faces a historic, and so far peaceful, election as it seeks to move beyond longtime leader Robert Mugabe, who stepped down in November under military pressure.


12:25 a.m.

A court in South Africa has set aside a decision to grant diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe's former first lady Grace Mugabe in a case where she was accused of beating a young model with an electrical cord.

South African media report that the South Gauteng High Court says the government decision last year was inconsistent with the constitution.

Mugabe was first lady when a young South African model accused her of assault in a Johannesburg hotel. Mugabe was allowed to leave the country, a decision that caused an outcry.

Her husband, Robert Mugabe, was forced out of office in November under military pressure after a ruling party feud as the first lady appeared to be positioning herself for the presidency.


11:45 a.m.

Zimbabwe's two main presidential candidates faced starkly different receptions as they voted in a historic election.

Solemn faces greeted President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he arrived with his wife at a rural school in Kwekwe. There was no cheering, and people crossed their arms and watched as he left in his motorcade.

Meanwhile opposition leader Nelson Chamisa was swarmed by cheering, whistling supporters on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. And the mood at other polling stations was largely cheerful as people waited in line. Some arrived at 4 a.m., three hours early.

Mnangagwa previously lost parliamentary elections in his Kwekwe constituency and had been appointed by former leader Robert Mugabe to an unelected seat in parliament, leading to derisive comments from the opposition about his lack of electoral appeal.


10:50 a.m.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper is harshly criticizing main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on election day, calling him a proxy for former leader Robert Mugabe and rejecting his claims to represent change.

The front-page commentary follows Sunday's remarks by the 94-year-old Mugabe that he would not vote for his former deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa and that Chamisa is the only viable candidate.

"Now this is the man who tries a comeback by proxy," The Herald says. Addressing the 40-year-old Chamisa, it continues: "You willingly become his cat's paw while masquerading as an independent man representing a new generation."

Chamisa has said he'll accept the vote of Mugabe or any other Zimbabwean, saying it's not his role to discriminate.

Mugabe was forced to resign in November after a military takeover and a ruling ZANU-PF party move to impeach him, just weeks after he fired the 75-year-old Mnangagwa in a ruling party feud.


10:25 a.m.

A politician in the Zimbabwean opposition stronghold of Bulawayo says there are numerous reports of "voting going at a snail's pace."

David Coltart, a supporter of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, says he hopes election observers will pay special attention to the pace of voting "as it is a means of suppressing the urban vote."

Coltart says on Twitter that Zimbabwe's electoral commission deliberately slowed voting in urban areas in the 2002 election to undermine the opposition, which traditionally has strong support in major cities.

Past elections have been marred by irregularities. But Zimbabwe's electoral commission says this election — the first without longtime leader Robert Mugabe — will be free and fair.


10:15 a.m.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has cast his vote in his constituency of Kwekwe, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital, Harare.

Mnangagwa wore a scarf with the country's national colors as he arrived at a primary school converted into a polling station, and chatted briefly with election workers after casting his ballot.

He told reporters that he is committed to a Zimbabwe in which people have the "freedom to express their views, negative or positive." He called the vote peaceful.

And he took the criticism of him by former leader Robert Mugabe on Sunday in stride, saying that "He is a citizen ... He can engage me anytime."


9:55 a.m.

A former Cabinet minister and opposition leader in Zimbabwe says it's a "great day" for the country as it goes to the polls.

Dumiso Dabengwa, head of the opposition Zimbabwe African People's Union, tells the South African news outlet eNCA that the election offers two starkly different paths for Zimbabweans.

"It's a decider as to whether Zimbabwe goes forward or remains stuck in the problems that it is facing today," said Dabengwa, who was imprisoned for years without charge under former leader Robert Mugabe. He describes the vote as a choice between a "new, fresh start" and the "status quo."

Dabengwa says he supports main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.


9:45 a.m.

Piercing whistles and cheers have greeted Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa as he votes in the country's historic election.

Crowds are swarming the 40-year-old lawyer and pastor at a polling station just outside Harare.

Chamisa is challenging the 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. The contest could bring international legitimacy and investment or signal more stagnation if the vote is seriously flawed.


9:15 a.m.

One of Zimbabwe's voters is the brother of Itai Dzamara, an activist abducted by suspected state agents in 2015 after urging longtime ruler Robert Mugabe to resign at a time when most Zimbabweans dared not do so.

Patson Dzamara says on Twitter that change is coming and he thanks his brother for "blazing a trail for me and others" with his brazen and sometimes solitary protests. "My brother Itai Dzamara, this is for you. I did it for you."

The missing activist's family and supporters have called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe enforcer, to explain what happened to Dzamara after he was bundled into a car by five unidentified men.

Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe resigned in November, has not responded. Mugabe on Sunday called Dzamara "that character" and claimed not to know about his fate.

Patson Dzamara says he supports Nelson Chamisa, the main opposition leader.


9:05 a.m.

Zimbabwe's president is urging the country to remain peaceful during a historic election, saying that "We are one people, with one dream and one destiny. We will sink or swim together."

The 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over after longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure.

Mnangagwa's top challenger is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, who took over the main opposition party after the death of longtime Mugabe challenger Morgan Tsvangirai in February.

Zimbabwe's more than 5 million registered voters are forming long lines in the capital, Harare, and elsewhere.


7:05 a.m.

Zimbabweans are voting in their first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, a contest that could bring international legitimacy and investment or signal more stagnation if the vote is seriously flawed.

About 5.5 million people are registered to vote on Monday in this southern African nation anxious for change after decades of economic paralysis and the nearly four-decade rule of the 94-year-old Mugabe.

Long lines of voters are waiting outside some polling stations. Thousands of election monitors are in the country to observe a process that the opposition says is biased against them.

The two main contenders are 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former deputy president who took over from Mugabe last year, and Nelson Chamisa, who became head of the main opposition party just a few months ago.

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