Zimbabwe goes to the polls in August amid some of the highest inflation rates in the world and accusations of intensifying repression against the opposition.
Longtime president Robert Mugabe was impeached in 2017, but many say little has changed.
As the vote approaches, questions remain about the freedom and fairness of the ballot in a country that is trying to restore its image.
When are the elections?
Zimbabweans will vote on August 23 to elect councillors, members of parliament and a president. If there is no outright winner in the presidential race, a runoff will take place six weeks later on October 2.
Who is running for president?
Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission endorsed 11 candidates.
That’s down sharply from the 23 who contested the last election, in 2018, presumably because each candidate now has to pay $20,000 (£16,000), down from $1,000 (£800).
But the contest is likely to be between two contestants:
Incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwaof the ruling party Zanu-PF
Leader of the Opposition Nelson Chamissaof the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC)
Mr Mnangagwa, 80, has ruled Zimbabwe since the military forced Robert Mugabe to quit in 2017 and then won a disputed election a year later. He was a longtime Mugabe ally before the pair fell out.
Mr. Chamisa, 45, came second in 2018, winning 44% of the vote. A 2020 court ruling stripped him of the leadership of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, and he subsequently lost access to party assets and government funding. State.
He formed the CCC in 2022, remains hugely popular in urban areas and is the main face of the opposition.
Other contenders include Douglas Mwonzora, the new leader of the MDC.
Savior Kasukuwere, a former exiled Mugabe ally, has been banned from running on the grounds that he has been living outside the country for more than 18 months – a decision he disputes.
Who will win?
Zanu-PF has the advantage of incumbency, state power and access to state resources. The party, in power since independence in 1980, also retains strong support in rural areas.
However, with the economy in such a mess, many people, especially those in urban areas and young people, think it’s time for a change.
Rural voters normally turn out in large numbers, unlike urban and young voters, who might play against the opposition. The government has also refused to allow Zimbabweans living abroad to vote – which could also work against Mr Chamisa.
So far, polls have predicted different outcomes, so it’s hard to use them as a guide to who might become president.
In addition, human rights activists claim that in the past Zanu-PF has used various tactics to stay in power, including violence and intimidation, blackouts of state media and negative coverage of the country. ‘opposition. Zanu-PF has previously denied using dirty tricks against its opponents.
What are the main issues?
The cost of living crisis continues to be at the heart of voters’ concerns, with the past three years having been among the worst in a decade. In the 12 months to May this year, prices rose by 86.5%, one of the highest annual inflation rates in the world.
Meanwhile, businesses are struggling to cope with crippling power cuts and an unstable local currency, which lost 86% of its value between January and early June.
Allegations of corruption also remain a source of frustration, with a very low prosecution rate. During the Covid pandemic, equipment was allegedly purchased at inflated prices – the health minister was sacked but then exonerated by the courts.
How do elections work?
For deputies and council candidates, the election is won by first-past-the-post, ie the person with the most votes.
In the presidential race, however, a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to be declared the winner, otherwise there will be a runoff between the top two.
When will we have the results?
According to the law, the results of the presidential election must be announced within five days of the end of the poll.
Will they be free and fair?
Civil society groups and the opposition doubt that the polls are free or fair. They cite what they say is a systemic crackdown on government critics.
Arrests and convictions of opposition figures and government critics have intensified over the past two years.
The electoral reforms that the opposition has been calling for for years – to level the playing field, provide access to public media and exclude former soldiers from the electorate – have not taken place.
CCC leader Mr Chamisa said more than 60 party meetings were banned or disrupted by police during last year’s by-elections, raising fears that it could happen again.
As former Zimbabwean politician Jonathan Moyo put it, Zanu-PF will “not reform out of power”.
What happened in the last elections in 2018?
This will be the second time that Mr. Mnangagwa and Mr. Chamisa have faced each other.
Five years ago the president won in the first round with 50.8% of the vote, but violence followed on polling day in which six people were killed when security forces opened fire on Some protestors.
Observers generally hailed freedom of movement during the campaign period and relative peace on election day, but the EU, for example, noted major shortcomings, including the diversion of state resources to the president. outgoing.
The EU said the final results as announced by the Electoral Commission contained numerous errors.
Mr Chamisa’s party failed in its legal challenge to overturn the result after arguing that the presidential and parliamentary vote tallies were wrong by the tens of thousands.