Zimbabweans participate in a Sunday church service in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sunday July 29, 2018. Zimbabwe votes Monday in an election that could, if deemed credible, tilt the country toward recovery after years of economic collapse and repression under former leader Robert Mugabe. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The Latest: US observers hope Zimbabwe polls will be fair

July 29, 2018 - 9:34 am

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

3:30 p.m.

An international mission of election observers says Zimbabwe has made progress toward holding a credible election on Monday, but that significant concerns remain, including state media bias toward the ruling party and problems with the layout of ballot papers.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a leader of the mission of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, said Sunday that there are "red flags" in the organization of the election but that she hopes for a peaceful outcome reflecting the will of most Zimbabweans. She says she is encouraged by a freer political environment in Zimbabwe as well as the introduction of biometric voter registration, even if "there are concerns with that as well."

Johnnie Carson, a former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe also on the mission, says there are problems with the ballot papers, which are required by law to have a single column of names of presidential candidates in alphabetical order. However, he says, the names are instead broken into two columns of 14 and nine names, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the top of the second column — a spot that would presumably make it easier for people to vote for him.

Carson says election commission officials told the mission that they formatted the ballot papers that way so they wouldn't overrun their budget.

Mnangawa, who took power after the resignation in November of longtime leader Robert Mugabe, has promised a free and fair election. The main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, says the election commission is biased against the opposition and that he expects the vote to be flawed.


2:50 p.m.

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader says the ruling party has conducted a "fake news" campaign against him with the help of foreign technicians ahead of Monday's elections.

Nelson Chamisa, head of the Movement for Democratic Change party, says that "there is a lot of false news making the rounds" and that supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa hired "foreigners" to disparage his candidacy.

"These foreigners are actually fake news mercenaries," Chamisa said at a news conference. "Their duty is to concoct, manufacture, engineer and produce fictitious and fallacious videos, news stories and then send them out to you, send them out to the world, to confuse the voters."

Chamisa says he will reveal the names of foreign computer experts who worked for the ruling ZANU-PF party at an "appropriate time."

The ZANU-PF says it is committed to a free and fair election. It says opposition allegations that it is engaging in electoral irregularities are false.


1:05 p.m.

Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe has emerged from months of silence to tell reporters that "I will not vote for those who have illegally taken power" in Monday's historic election.

Mugabe stepped down in November under military and ruling party pressure.

The election pits his former deputy, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, against main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

Mugabe says of Chamisa, "He seems to be doing well at his rallies."

Mugabe adds that "Whoever wins, we wish him well ... And let us accept the verdict."

The former leader, who ruled for 37 years with increasing repression, now calls for a "democratic constitution" and the people's freedom to speak.


12:30 p.m.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is speaking to the nation for the first time since stepping down from power in November and less than 24 hours before the country faces a historic vote — the first without him.

The 94-year-old Mugabe is speaking to reporters about the circumstances of his removal from power.

He also could endorse someone ahead of Monday's election in which his former deputy, President Emmerson Mnangagawa, faces a 40-year-old lawyer and pastor, Nelson Chamisa.

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