HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabweans on Tuesday awaited the first results from an election that they hope will lift the country out of economic and political stagnation after decades of rule by former leader Robert Mugabe.
Officials counted votes a day after millions of Zimbabweans peacefully cast their votes in a process closely watched by international monitors, who have yet to announce whether the election was free and fair.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it will release the final tally within five days.
The two main contenders are 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former deputy president who has reinvented himself as a candidate for change; and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who became head of the main opposition party a few months ago, after the death of its leader.
Both candidates issued upbeat assessments of how they did, though said they were waiting for the electoral commission to make the final announcement as required by law.
"I am delighted by the high turnout and citizen engagement so far," Mnangagwa tweeted.
Chamisa said he had his own results from most of the nearly 11,000 polling stations, though said he would wait for the official tally.
More than 5.5 million people were registered to vote in an election featuring a record number of more than 20 presidential candidates and nearly 130 political parties vying for parliamentary seats. If no presidential candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held Sept. 8.
Western election observers were in Zimbabwe, reflecting a freer political environment since the November resignation of Mugabe, who had ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Still, there were concerns about bias in state media coverage of the election, a lack of transparency in ballot printing and reports of intimidation by pro-government local leaders who are supposed to stay neutral.