HARARE, Zimbabwe—Zimbabwe’s opposition leader on Friday rejected President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election victory, pledging to challenge the result of a vote he said was marred by fraud.
Nelson Chamisa’s comments came shortly after police in riot gear cleared out a Harare hotel where local and international press had assembled for a news conference he was about to give.
“This cannot be the behavior of the people who have won. This is the behavior of the people who have lost,” said Mr. Chamisa, after several dozen police officers and a truck carrying water cannon had withdrawn from the hotel just outside Harare’s city center.
Mr. Chamisa said he and his Movement for Democratic Change were planning to challenge the results announced early Friday by Zimbabwe’s electoral commission.
The commission declared Mr. Mnangagwa, who last year deposed longtime strongman Robert Mugabe after serving him for decades, the winner of Monday’s presidential election, with 50.8% of the vote.
That result meant the 75-year-old Mr. Mnangagwa narrowly avoided a runoff against Mr. Chamisa, who received 44.3% of the vote, according to the commission.
“As far as we are concerned, this election…is fraudulent, illegal…and characterized by some serious legitimacy issues,” Mr. Chamisa said. “We secured a majority.”
The police raid at the Bronte Hotel represented a sharp turnaround by the government, which for the first time in more than a decade invited intentional media and election observers to follow its presidential and parliamentary elections.
In a preliminary assessment before the result of the presidential vote was announced, the observers raised questions over the poll, flagging instances of intimidation, use of state resources, such as food aid, and bias of state media and traditional leaders in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF.
Even after six people died Wednesday in clashes between MDC supporters and soldiers wielding automatic weapons, government officials insisted that they were committed to reintegrating Zimbabwe into the international community, including by welcoming foreign media.
Zimbabwe has been under financial sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union since the early 2000s, when white farmers were violently pushed out of the country.
Election observers, including from the Commonwealth and the U.S.-based Carter Center were also at the hotel, when scores of police, carrying batons and some of them arms, stormed in.
“Get out, everybody get out,” the officers shouted, pushing journalists out of their way with their shields.
Mr. Mnangagwa in a tweet condemned the raid. “The scenes today at the Bronte Hotel have no place in our society and we are urgently investigating the matter to understand exactly what happened,” he said. “Over the past nine months we have protected freedom of speech, of assembly and the right to criticize the government.”
Earlier, supporters of Mr. Chamisa’s MDC chanted a song in the local Shona language at police, saying “sell us out and you will see the consequences.”
The officers presented no warrant when they entered the hotel. “They just came in, we don’t even know what’s going on,” said one of the managers.
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