Zimbabwean soldiers ordered shopkeepers to close and leave the centre of Harare, the day after deadly clashes broke out. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Harare - Zimbabwean soldiers ordered shopkeepers to close and leave the centre of the capital on Thursday, two store-owners said, the day after three people were killed by troops sent in to disperse crowds of opposition supporters.

The dispute over the conduct of the elections and the subsequent violence has punctured the euphoria over the army's removal of longtime strongman Robert Mugabe last November and the hope that Zimbabwe might be entering a new era of democracy after decades of political repression and economic ruin.

The international community's view on the election is crucial to Harare's efforts to patch up relations after years of hostility under Mugabe and secure the billions of dollars of donor funding and investment needed to rebuild its economy.

The Zimbabwe Election Commission is expected to start announcing the results of Monday's presidential election, which the opposition says has been rigged in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.