Zimbabweans voted in the historic, first post-Mugabe parliamentary and presidential elections last week. High-voter turnout of about 75 percent indicates the level of citizen engagement in the process, undoubtedly spurred by the first real chance to see a political transition of power since independence. Post-election violence is troubling, and concerns expressed by observers on the election’s fairness and administration should be taken seriously. We sympathize with the families of those killed and urge government forces and civilians to remain peaceful as they express their jubilation and grievances after the election.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been declared the winner, and his administration now carries a public mandate. The ruling ZANU-PF party’s majority in parliament and President Mnangagwa’s continued tenure places much responsibility for Zimbabwe’s future in ZANU-PF hands. Opposition fears of kleptocratic and exclusivist policies, as seen under Mugabe, must be taken seriously as President Mnangagwa begins his first elected term.

The high-stakes of the election do not excuse violence by the government or the opposition. The raid on MDC headquarters executed August 2 is alarming, and peaceful opposition activities must be allowed without interference in the post-election civic space. It is important for all Zimbabweans to conduct themselves with restraint and to promote peace while the country processes the election results. Politicians and political parties should signal their commitment to a peaceful, fair, and transparent resolution to the process. Any challenge to the election results should be made through legal channels, and be met with transparency and equanimity by the government, judiciary, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Zimbabwe’s democratic future depends on space for the opposition to remain open and for freedoms to be extended. This time of change for Zimbabwe does not end with the declaration of election results, and the true measure of the electoral process will be seen in the next steps the newly elected government, opposition parties, and Zimbabwean citizens and civil society take into the future.