The Zimbabwean government warned protesters Thursday about rising violence after three people died in demonstrations over the ruling Zanu-PF party’s apparent election victory.
The three died in the capital Harare and scores were injured in protests Wednesday over the party’s parliament wins.
The election is the country’s first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe was ousted by a coup in November.
The violence has placed the country on edge with fears of returning to bitter relations between two parties.
RELATED Zimbabwe presidential election too close to call
“While a key pillar of democracy, the election has plunged us back to the acrimonious days of Robert Mugabe,” analyst Thulani Mabona said. “Suspicions of rigging, which have not been helped by ZEC’s opaque operations, have renewed the bitter relations between the two rival parties. Although vote-rigging can best be proven by the experts, the democratic drawback is quite apparent.”
In response, police have invoked the Public Order Security Act, which forbids public gatherings.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera soldiers opened fire Wednesday to disperse stone-throwing opposition party supporters who accused the Zanu-PF party of rigging the vote.
RELATED 8 injured in assassination plot on Zimbabwe’s president
Opposition alliance Movement for Democratic Change called the state’s response “disproportionate and unjustified.”
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa blamed the violence on supporters of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and urged the MDC to “remove its violent supporters from the street.”
European Union observers have criticized the presidential and parliamentary votes. An Election Observation Mission statement said an “unlevel playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the pre-election environment.”
RELATED Zimbabwe’s ruling party appears headed for election victory
With official presidential vote results in Monday’s election yet to be announced, the EU statement added, “We now hope for a transparent and traceable results process.”
John Dramani Mahama, chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group, expressed “profound sadness at the outbreak of violence by supporters of the opposition and the excessive use of force by the security services.”
Mahama urged people to be patient while awaiting final results.
“It has been 16 years since the commonwealth observed elections in Zimbabwe,” Mahama said in a statement. “We were last here for the 2002 presidential election. This election, therefore, is of great significance to us. It is a privilege to be here, in support of the people of Zimbabwe, at another milestone in their democratic journey. Again, we express our hope that peace prevails.”