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On Eve of Big Election, Mugabe Has a Surprise

Ousted Zimbabwe leader won't back his own ruling party in tight race
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2018 6:27 AM CDT
Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa casts his vote at a polling station in Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, July 30.   (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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(Newser) – Zimbabweans are voting Monday for president, and the name Robert Mugabe is not on the ballot. But that doesn't mean the 94-year-old former ruler, who was ousted in a military coup last year, won't have a say in the outcome. At a surprise news conference Sunday, Mugabe announced that he would not support the man who replaced him as president after the ouster and who represents his own Zanu-PF party, reports the BBC. "I cannot vote for those who tormented me," said Mugabe, referring to incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa. The comments could make a difference: Polls suggest a tight race between Mnangagwa, 75, and his 40-year-old challenger, a pastor and lawyer named Nelson Chamisa, reports Reuters.

Mugabe's comments prompted Mnangagwa to fire back: "It is clear to all that Chamisa has forged a deal with Mugabe, we can no longer believe that his intentions are to transform Zimbabwe and rebuild our nation," he said. The Guardian, meanwhile, reports that long lines have been reported at polling stations throughout the country. “This is a critical moment in Zimbabwe’s democratic journey,” says Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia who is leading an international observer mission for the election. "The elections today provide an opportunity to break with the past." (Read more Zimbabwe stories.)

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