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Zimbabwean president wants UN to observe vote

Friday, January 19, 2018

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa wants international observers including UN officials to watch over the country's upcoming elections, he said in a Financial Times interview.

Mnangagwa has adopted a more diplomatic tone since taking over as leader in November, after the ousting of the authoritarian Robert Mugabe, his former boss.

After announcing earlier this week that elections will be held in four to five months, the new president invited international observers to Zimbabwe for the vote.

"We want fair, free, credible elections," he told British business newspaper the Financial Times in an interview published Thursday.

"I would want that the United Nations should come, the EU should come... If the Commonwealth were requesting to come, I am disposed to consider their application," he added.

Zimbabwe shunned international observers during Mugabe's 37-year rule, during which elections were marred by vote-rigging and violent suppression of the opposition.

Mnangagwa was one of Mugabe's closest allies in the ruling ZANU-PF party and the 75-year-old has been accused of playing a vital role in the authoritarian regime.

But since taking over the presidency he has extended an olive branch to the international community, including to former colonial ruler Britain.

The UK was an outspoken critic of Mugabe's leadership, but Mnangagwa predicted closer ties when Britain leaves the European Union next year.

"They will need us. And we will make sure we become very close to them," he told the FT.

The Zimbabwean president also said he would be open to seeking to rejoin the Commonwealth, a grouping of nations largely formerly ruled by Britain.

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