Zimbabwe will hold elections on July 30, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced.
These will be Zimbabwe’s first ever elections since independence from white minority rule in 1980 without the participation of Robert Mugabe, who resigned in November amid pressure from the military, his party and the public.
The elections will be for president as well as for parliamentary and council seats.
Nelson Chamisa, 40, head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change will be Mr Mnangagwa’s main challenger, and there are many smaller parties.
A run-off will be held on September 8 if none of the presidential candidates wins an outright majority, according to Mr Mnangagwa’s proclamation.
Mr Mnangagwa, a long-time ally of Robert Mugabe, has pledged a “free, fair and credible” election. He has invited observers from Western countries for the first time since 2002 as part of efforts to re-engage with the international community after decades of isolation and sanctions.
Past elections in the economically troubled southern African country have been characterised by allegations of fraud and military-led violence. Mr Mnangagwa has repeatedly said this year’s elections will be different.
So far, opposition parties have been campaigning without the previous threats of violence and arrest.
More than five million of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people have registered to vote.
Zimbabweans working and living outside the country will be unable to vote, unless they travel back home for the polls after a court ruling against postal votes.
There are millions of Zimbabweans residing outside the country after many people fled economic and political problems that beset this once prosperous country, although there are no official figures of Zimbabweans in the diaspora.