Polls open for first Zimbabwe election since President Mugabe's removal

Polls are open for Zimbabwe's first election since the removal of its long-term former president, Robert Mugabe

Polls have officially opened in Zimbabwe’s first election since the removal of long-term former president Robert Mugabe.

The country's founding president, Mugabe was ousted last year after almost four decades in power.

The election pits 75-year-old president Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-time Mugabe ally, against 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who is vying to become Zimbabwe’s youngest head of state.

Parliamentary and local elections are also taking place on Monday.

Voting began at 7am (local time) and will end at 7pm.

About 5.5 million people are registered to vote in the nation anxious for change after decades of economic paralysis and the nearly four-decade rule of the 94-year-old Mugabe.

The country is expecting a high turnout of first-time voters, where the youth vote is expected to be key. Almost half of those registered are under the age of 35.

“I just have to do this. I have to see a better Zimbabwe for my kids. Things have been tough,” Tawanda Petru, 28, an unemployed man voting in Mbare, a low-income district of the capital Harare, said.

Mugabe, who resigned in November after the military took control of the country, refused to support his former ally Mr Mnangagwa.

"I cannot vote for those who tormented me," he said. "I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality,"

Polls give Mnangagwa, a dour former spy chief and aide of Mugabe known as “the Crocodile” for his reputation for ruthless cunning, a lead over Chamisa. If no candidate wins more than half the votes there will be a runoff on 8 September.

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