HARARE, Zimbabwe will hold elections to choose a new president between July 21 anD Aug 22, this year, the country's electoral body has announced.

The polls will be Zimbabwe's first without the spectre of former president Robert Mugabe, 94, who was forced to resign in November after a military takeover, and the late opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer last month.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, of the Zanu PF party, who took over power from Mugabe, a man he had walked by the side of for more than 50 years, will face off against 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, the interim president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party founded by Tsvaigirai.

Chamisa will run as leader of an MDC Alliance -- a grouping of seven opposition parties which include MDC-T, another MDC factional party led by Welshman Ncube (MDC-N), the Zimbabwe People First party, Multi-racial Christian Democrats, Zanu Ndonga, Transform Zimbabwe party and the People's Democratic Party, led by former Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

On Monday, Justice Priscilla Chigumba, the new chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), announced that while it was the prerogative of the president to proclaim the election date, the election process has to be done within the confines of the Constitution.

Chigumba, who was appointed at the end of January, said the Constitution of Zimbabwe outlines [that] a general election must take place not more than 30 days before the expiry of the five-year period". The last general elections were held on 31 July 2013 and the president-elect was sworn in on Aug 22, 2013.

It follows that the next general elections should be, thus, held on any date between 21 July and 22 August 2018, explained Chigumba.

She added that while the commission awaited the proclamation of the exact election date, it was decrypting data from the biometric voter registration and preliminary cleaning of data collected during the blitz phases as it awaits the delivery of de-duplication software.

After data de-duplication, a provisional voters' roll will be produced and opened for public inspection before the final roll is printed, Chigumba said.