Tension is growing in Zimbabwe after the country's main opposition party said it will dispute official election results showing that the ruling Zanu-PF party is headed for a two-thirds majority in parliament.
The demonstrators, most of whom were supporters from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, unilaterally declared the victory of their own candidate, Nelson Chamisa.
The security forces opened fire with guns, water cannons and tear gas, and protesters burned cars and threw rocks as helicopters hovered above Harare.
The deployment of soldiers and their beating of unarmed protesters is a setback to President Emmerson Mnangagwa's efforts to shed Zimbabwe's pariah status after decades of repression under Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in November.
With elections under Mugabe marred by fraud and often deadly violence, Mnangagwa promised a free and fair vote and invited global observers. "The strategy is meant to prepare Zim mentally to accept fake presidential results", he tweeted.
Even before the violence, European Union observers questioned the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary poll, the first since Mugabe's forced resignation after almost 40 years in charge of the Southern African nation.
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Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party won the most seats in parliament, official results showed Wednesday, with partial results due to later Wednesday in the key presidential race.
Patson Dzamara, a campaign adviser to Chamisa, said the party had commissioned exit polling in the 10 provinces and they had a clear majority.
It said the election was largely peaceful in a break from the past but wondered why presidential votes were counted first but were being announced last.
"You can't rig our election...this is a military government", the crowd shouted.
The outcome will be announced once results from all provinces are received and verified, Priscilla Chigumba, the chair of the electoral commission, told reporters.
There is a growing level of anxiety in the country as many were hopeful that MDC Alliance Presidential candidate would win the contest.
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He added: "We have seen how we have won in those areas including rural areas, we were leading, and now they want to hide on the Zanu PF usual manipulation that they control rural areas".
Mnangagwa was allegedly involved in violence and intimidation during the 2008 elections when then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off after attacks claimed the lives of at least 200 of his supporters.
"A truly level playing field was not achieved", European Union chief observer Elmar Brok said, pointing to the "misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media". And authorities welcomed it as such, as well, inviting global election monitors to observe the elections for the first time in about 16 years.
Supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party burn an election banner with the face of Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, Zimbabwe. 'They need a good change.
Chamisa accused ZANU-PF of trying to steal the election.
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Elections were also held on Wednesday for four provincial assemblies-Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He is a cool leader", first-time voter Ammar Haider, 20, told AFP at a street celebration in Islamabad .