Zimbabwe Election: Polls open as Mnangagwa seeks second term

Zimbabweans lined up to vote in general elections on Wednesday. [Reuters]

Zimbabweans are going to the polls today for general elections.

Incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is facing off against 11 other candidates.

ZANU-PF has ruled Zimbabwe since the country's independence from British colonial rule in 1980.

Voting stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0500 UTC) and are set to close at 7:00 p.m. (1700 UTC).

Mnangagwa seeking final term.

Mnangagwa assumed office following a 2017 coup that ousted strongman Robert Mugabe, also of the ZANU-PF, who had led Zimbabwe since 1980.

The incumbent president is seeking a second and final term. Zimbabwe's constitution, approved in a 2013 reform, allows presidents to serve for a maximum of two five-year terms.

A run-off election will be held on October 2 if no candidate achieves an absolute majority in the first round.

Mnangagwa's main challenger is Nelson Chamisa of the Citizen Coalitions for Change (CCC) party.

Chamisa has accused the government of repressing the CCC, including blocking the party's campaign rallies.

US calls for elections 'free of violence'

The US State Department voiced concern about political violence ahead of the election.

"We call on the government of Zimbabwe and all political leaders to ensure the elections are free of violence and coercion," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

"We are concerned by recent actions leading up to the elections, including political violence and legislation that curtails human rights and freedoms enshrined in Zimbabwe's constitution," he said.

The State Department spokesman criticized the denial of credentials to international journalists and local civil society to cover the election.

The US has for years imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.