Zimbabwe’s first elections since the removal of long-standing president Robert Mugabe turned violent when troops opened fire on protests against alleged voting fraud, killing at least three people.
Here is a timeline of events leading up to Monday’s landmark vote and its bloody aftermath.
– Mugabe out after 37 years –
Tension builds following Mugabe’s sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa as his vice president in early November 2017, a move seen as positioning the veteran’s president’s wife to become his successor.
Army tanks take up positions around the capital overnight November 14-15 and Mugabe is put under house arrest.
Four days later the ruling ZANU-PF party sacks him as leader and expels his wife. On November 21 the 93-year-old Mugabe bows to pressure to quit and ends his 37-year grip on power.
– New president pledges polls –
On November 24 Mnangagwa is sworn in as president, promising that elections due in 2018 will go ahead.
In February 2018 veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dies of cancer; his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) picks former youth activist Nelson Chamisa to lead it into the election set for July 30.
A record 23 presidential candidates are in June cleared to stand.
On June 23 a bomb explodes as Mnangagwa leaves the podium at a ZANU-PF campaign rally in the opposition stronghold city of Bulawayo.
He escapes unharmed but dozens of people are injured and two of his bodyguards are killed.
– Historic vote –
On the eve of the vote, Mugabe holds a surprise press conference at his home at which he stuns observers and calls for voters to reject the ZANU-PF, his former party.
He even hints that he could vote for Chamisa.
Voting on July 30 takes place in a peaceful atmosphere. Long lines form from the early morning outside polling stations and turnout is estimated at around 75 percent.
The next day, as vote counting is under way, Chamisa says that he is “winning resoundingly”. “We are ready to form the next (government),” he says.
The government warns candidates they face prosecution and jail for prematurely announcing results.
The much-criticised election authority meanwhile declares there has been no rigging, after the opposition repeatedly alleges the vote process was flawed.
– Violence erupts –
On August 1 the election commission announces that ZANU-PF has won most of the seats in parliament. It does not give the results for the presidential vote.
The opposition cries foul, alleging fraud, and EU observers say the elections were held on an “un-level playing field”.
Opposition protestors take to the streets of Harare, burning tyres and pulling down street signs.
Soldiers arrive and fire live rounds on opposition activists. At least three people are killed.
As international condemnation pours in, the government warns it will “not tolerate” further unrest.
On August 2 soldiers and police clear the streets of Harare as tensions mount ahead of the release of the results of the presidential ballot, the election authority asking the public “to be patient”.