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HARARE, Zimbabwe – It's a close race for the presidency in Zimbabwe as the country goes to the polls. Here's a look at the two main candidates vying to lead the once-prosperous southern African nation out of the shadow of former leader Robert Mugabe, who stepped down in November under military pressure.
PRESIDENT EMMERSON MNANGAGWA
Party: The ruling ZANU-PF
Nicknamed "the Crocodile" for his guerrilla activities during the war for liberation and for years Mugabe's enforcer, Mnangagwa has tried to cast himself as a reformer with pledges of a free and fair election after past votes were marred by violence and irregularities. After he was fired last year by Mugabe amid a ruling party feud, the military rallied behind him to help push Mugabe out. Mnangagwa has asked the country to let bygones be bygones, but many recall his role as state security minister during the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s when the army killed thousands of people as Mugabe moved against a political rival. Mnangagwa has repeatedly declared Zimbabwe "open for business" since he took office, but a credible election is key to lifting international sanctions and opening the door to badly needed investment in a country whose economy has long collapsed.
Party: Movement for Democratic Change
The lawyer and pastor emerged to lead the main opposition party after the death earlier this year of its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who for years had been Mugabe's top challenger in elections. Chamisa now has the support of a coalition of parties including one backed by Mugabe and members of a youthful pro-Mugabe faction that was quickly purged from the ruling party and government when Mnangagwa took office. Chamisa, a former student leader who was among the top six officials when the MDC was formed in 1999, has promised wide-ranging economic reforms in Zimbabwe. He also has pointed out the 35-year gap between him and Mnangagwa, telling The Associated Press in an interview earlier this year that "I represent the new. Mnangagwa represents the past."