Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court confirmed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s disputed July 30 election victory on Friday, dismissing an opposition challenge that had held up his inauguration.
Mnangagwa is due to inaugurated on Sunday.
In a unanimous ruling of the nine judges of the country’s top court, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said Nelson Chamisa, who leads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had failed to prove allegations of fraud during the presidential vote.
“Emmerson Mnangagwa is duly declared the winner of the presidential elections held on the July 30, 2018,” Malaba said in his ruling.
The election, in which Mnangagwa and Chamisa were the main contenders, was touted as a crucial step towards economic recovery and shedding Zimbabwe’s pariah reputation, but instead has left the nation polarized.
An army crackdown in response to post-election violence by opposition supporters left six people dead on Aug. 1, recalling the heavyhanded security tactics that marked the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe, who was removed in a coup last November.
Mnangagwa now faces the challenge of persuading the international community that the army crackdown and lapses in the election process will not derail his promise of reforms needed to fix the economy.
The president called for peace on his Twitter feed, after the ruling was delivered.
“Nelson Chamisa, my door is open and my arms are outstretched, we are one nation, and we must put our nation first. Let us all now put our differences behind us,” he said.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told Reuters that Mnangagwa would be inaugurated on Sunday.
MDC Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora told reporters outside the court that “whatever we do as MDC we are going to act within the law… We want Zimbabweans who want to demonstrate to be allowed to demonstrate.”
Police blocked roads around the court, a 19th century British colonial building just opposite Mnangagwa’s offices in central Harare. Vehicles carrying water cannon reappeared on streets near the court house while riot police patrolled the city center in groups.
Nkululeko Sibanda, spokeperson for Nelson Chamisa, the leader of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, talks to the media outside the Constitutional Court in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
A Reuters witness said Harare was calm immediately after the ruling, with people going about their usual business.
In a statement, the European Union urge all parties to “call for calm and restraint” after the court ruling.
“It is important that the new government engages all stakeholders in substantive discussions on the necessary reforms, including on further electoral reforms,” the EU said.