“Observers will have a two-pronged impact,” Nhlanhla Ngwenya, an analyst at 4Cast Research said by phone from Bulawayo, the second-largest city.
“Firstly, they act as a deterrent to political violence just by being in the country in greater numbers. Secondly, they serve to help give the election legitimacy if they find it credible, free and fair.”
The presidential election is largely a straight fight between Chamisa, 40, and Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old former Vice President and spy chief who replaced Mugabe after he resigned in November when the military briefly seized power and his party threatened to impeach him.
None of the 21 other candidates have a realistic chance of winning.
The run-up to the vote has been largely peaceful. The most serious incident occurred when an explosion went off at a ruling party rally in Bulawayo on June 23 and 49 people were hurt, two of whom later died.
Mnangagwa, who narrowly escaped injury, suggested that his opponents in the ruling party and not the opposition were responsible for the attack.
“At least there’s no violence this time,” said Nyarai Moyo, 44, a teacher from the northern town of Magunje.
“Observers from outside help, especially Americans and Europeans, because the police and ZANU youth will most probably keep themselves to themselves if foreigners are around.
The electoral commission and ruling party both say all the necessary steps have been taken to ensure a legitimate vote.
“We expect the political environment ahead of the vote to be the freest in decades, but totally free and fair is an unrealistic expectation,” Gary van Staden, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics, said in an emailed report.
“Who wins the elections is less important than how.”
Terence Jakaya, 32, an unemployed resident of Harare, said the election’s credibility can only be determined after the results are in.
“It’s good that Western observers were allowed in this time and credit to Mnangagwa for opening the door,” Jakaya said.
“Still, I don’t know how effective they can be with things like the voters’ roll and ballot papers, so even with them, there’s a chance of rigging.”- Bloomberg