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Zimbabwe counts votes after first post-Mugabe election

An electoral worker empties a presidential candidates ballot box onto a table during counting operations for Zimbabwe's capital Harare (AFP)

Counting began in Zimbabwe on Monday ,July 30, in the first election since the removal of former president Robert Mugabe, a watershed vote that could pull a pariah state back into the international fold and spark an economic revival.

Observers check the tally of votes at a polling station for the general election in the suburb of
Mbareof Zimbabwe's capital Harare. (AFP)

The election is a two-horse race between 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-time Mugabe ally, and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who is vying to becomeZimbabwe's youngest head of state.

Mnangagwa is viewed as the frontrunner, though the latest opinion polls showed a tight race. There will be a runoff on Sept. 8 if no candidate wins more than half the votes.

Voting closed at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT). The official result has to be announced within five days but there will likely be an indication of the outcome on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission said voter turnout had averaged 75 percent, higher than in the last vote in 2013. Zimbabweans are also electing 210 members of parliament and more than 9,000 councilors.

The election winner faces the task of putting Zimbabwe back on track after 37 years of Mugabe rule tainted by corruption, mismanagement and diplomatic isolation that caused a crisis in a country that once had one of Africa's most promising economies.

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