Zimbabwe formally opened on Thursday the nomination process to presidential hopefuls ahead of polls on July 30.
Candidates seeking to run in next month’s presidential, parliamentary and local polls have just one day to submit their candidacy to one of several specially convened electoral courts across the country.
This poll will be the first time the country holds an election without former leader Robert Mugabe running for the country’s top seat.
Mugabe, who came to power in 1980 after the country won independence from Britain, was pushed out of office by the army in November last year.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former vice president under Mugabe, took over from the country’s long-term ruler and is one of several candidates who have registered to take part in the July 30 polls.
A member of the ruling ZANU PF, Mnangagwa is the frontrunner in the election. The 75-year-old, popularly known as “the crocodile” because of his political cunning, has promised to reform the country’s economy if elected and to end its diplomatic isolation.
Mnangagwa took part in the country’s long struggle for independence and was tortured by the former colonial forces.
During the country’s civil war in the 1980s, in which thousands of civilians lost their lives, Mnangagwa was Zimbabwe’s spy chief but denied any role in the bloodshed, instead blaming it on the army.
Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) is thought to be Mnangagwa’s closest challenger.
The 40-year-old assumed control of the MDC-T after Morgan Tsvangirai’s death.
MDC-T is the largest stakeholder in the MDC Alliance, a grouping of seven opposition parties.
Chamisa is a charismatic former pastor and a lawyer with a huge following on social media and among the country’s youth.
He was elected to parliament in 2003 at the age of 25 and was a former chairperson of the MDC Youth Assembly.
Ambrose Mutinhiri of the National Patriotic Front (NPF) – a recently launched party – is another politician who could garner a significant number of votes. The NPF has support from Mugabe and former first lady Grace.
Mutinhiri fought alongside Mugabe during the liberation war and served under him for more than three decades. He is reported to have the support of the Generation 40 (G40) wing of ZANU PF.
G40 is a term given to the pro-Grace Mugabe wing of the party.