A record-breaking 23 people have put themselves forward to lead the southern African country of Zimbabwe in the country’s historic election next month, the highest number of candidates since the country gained independence from the U.K. in 1980.
Among those signed up to contest the presidency is incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power in November last year after long-term leader Robert Mugabe was
ousted in a coup
. Mnangagwa is Mugabe’s former deputy, and represents Zimbabwe’s ZANU PF party.
Also with his name on the ticket is Nelson Chamisa, the young leader of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change.
The large number of candidates “is likely to work in Mnangagwa’s favor by splitting the opposition vote,” William Atwell, practice leader for Sub-Saharan Africa at emerging markets advisory firm Frontier Strategy Group, told CNBC via e-mail.
The election, to be held on July 30, is momentous because it will be the first without Mugabe on the ticket in nearly four decades. Mnangagwa has pledged that the vote will be free and fair, and has invited western observers.
A delegation from the European Union
will be present.
Attwell added that he expected Mnangagwa to be re-elected, “albeit not with a thumping majority.” The sitting president could benefit from his incumbency, and has sought to present himself as a reformer.
Mnangagawa has pushed reform in Zimbabwe in an attempt to heal the economic wounds left from previous decades of mismanagement, which resulted in hyperinflation. He has
courted foreign investors
, and when launching the ZANU PF manifesto in early May, said that $11 billion had been committed.
Zimbabwe has also applied to re-join the Commonwealth, a bloc of former U.K. colonies which could bear economic fruit.
Earlier this week Mnangagwa hosted the China-Zimbabwe Business Forum in the capital Harare, at which he presented Chinese investors with an array of areas in which to put their money.
“The fact that we have 23 presidential hopefuls indicates that there is an opening of political space following the fall of former autocrat Robert Mugabe,” Attwell added.