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Zimbabwean Hopes Blasted Away

Injured people lay on the ground following an explosion at a ZANU-PF rally in Bulawayo on June 23.Injured people lay on the ground following an explosion at a ZANU-PF rally in Bulawayo on June 23.

The blast that wounded several people as President Emmerson Mnangagwa left a campaign rally in the city of Bulawayo may have significantly changed the country’s political landscape ahead of next month’s tight poll race, analysts say.

Although Mnangagwa pleaded for unity and peace after he survived the blast, Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst and academic, expressed skepticism about the possibility of a peaceful election next month.

Masunungure told Al Jazeera that although the climate toward the polls seemed more promising of less violence compared to other elections since 2000, the explosion sullied hopes for an election free of tension.

“This sours the political environment after it seemed like all parties were taking steps to ensure the election would be free of violence,” he said.

Mnangagwa rose to power last November after a military-led operation ousted his former ally, Robert Mugabe.

Under Mugabe’s authoritarian grip, polls over the past two decades have been characterized by violence and heated disputes over results.

  Freer Climate in Threat

Although Mnangagwa’s leadership has seen a relatively freer environment in Zimbabwe, Masunungure warned acts targeting the ZANU-PF government could see a closing up of a relatively more liberalized society.   

“If this unfortunate and callous act was an assassination attempt on the president as the state media have called it, then it does not augur well for the future because there are hardliners within ZANU-PF that are going to use incidences like these to call for tighter regulation of the liberal space that people have been enjoying since November,” he said.

Mnangagwa’s main challenger for the country’s top job is Nelson Chamisa, leader of the largest opposition coalition, namely Movement for Democratic Change Alliance.

Both are scheduled to hold rallies across Zimbabwe and have individually called for a free, safe and credible election.

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