ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Zimbabwe election result sparks worldwide ire

Tsvangirai beats Mugabe but rejects outcome

By Susan Njanji

HARARE, Saturday (AFP) - Zimbabwe came under mounting pressure today after the long-delayed result of a contentious presidential poll showed Morgan Tsvangirai trouncing Robert Mugabe but falling short of an absolute majority. As Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rejected the official result showing their leader winning 47.9 percent against Mugabe's 43.2 percent, world capitals called for a credible run-off and an halt to poll violence.

The European Commission spokeswoman underscored the need for “free and fair second round that is conducted in a proper manner.””We are therefore calling for international observers from the moment this process starts,” she told AFP. Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier called the results of the March 29 presidential vote “contested,” and said Tsvangirai had “a clear lead” over Mugabe, in power since 1980 when Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain.

A file photo taken on March 25, 2008 shows Zimbabwe's opposition leader of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai addressing his supporters in Buhera, his home town. AFP

Zimbabwe's electoral commission on Friday said in the absence of an absolute majority by Tsvangirai, there should be a run-off on a date yet to be announced. In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the results had “rather serious credibility problems” and doubted a run-off would be free and fair.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Mugabe had “clearly lost,”adding: “His campaign of violence and intimidation over the last month must stop immediately.”US-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch echoed the call.“Since the elections, the ruling ZANU-PF party, the army and so-called war veterans have conducted a brutal state-sponsored campaign of violence, torture and intimidation against MDC activists and supporters,” it said.

“The long delay in announcing the results of the presidential elections and the government's politically motivated arrests of more than 100 presiding election officers around the country raises serious questions about the official tally.”The MDC's number two, Tendai Biti, said the electoral commission, whose leaders are appointed by the president, had inflated the number of votes for Mugabe by 47,000 and deflated those for Tsvangirai by 50,000.

“Morgan Tsvangirai is the president of the republic of Zimbabwe to the extent that he won the highest number of votes,” he said, adding: “Morgan Tsvangirai has to be declared the president of Zimbabwe.” Under the terms of the Zimbabwean constitution, Mugabe would be declared the automatic winner if Tsvangirai refused to take part in a second round.

A senior Mugabe aide meanwhile accused the commission of deflating the figures for the incumbent but said the octogenarian leader would contest a run-off. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is challenging another 52 results from elections in which it lost control of parliament for the first time since 1980.

Mugabe has remained silent on the outcome of the presidential vote, but his control of the security apparatus has led the MDC to conclude that he will seek to intimidate voters into giving him a sixth term. But the hero of the 1970s war against white minority rule has found himself increasingly isolated since election day with an international outcry over an upsurge in violence.

No Western observers were allowed to oversee the ballot and a team from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was widely criticised for giving it a largely clean bill of health. However in a report released Friday after a follow-up mission to monitor a recent partial recount, SADC expressed alarm at rising levels of violence that the MDC claims has left 20 of its supporters dead.

Meanwhile South African President Thabo Mbeki, a continental heavyweight who has been trying to defuse the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe, told religious leaders in Pretoria that he will send a mission to probe political violence in Zimbabwe, the SAPA news agency reported.

“He assured us that he would do everything to ensure that a second round of the run-off election happens in an atmosphere of peace,” Nyansako Ni-Nku, head of the All-Africa Conference of Churches, was quoted as saying. “In order to achieve that, the president said that right away they will despatch a team to check every allegation of violence,” he said.

A one-time regional model, Zimbabwe now has the world's highest rate of inflation at 165,000 percent. Unemployment stands at over 80 percent, basic foodstuffs are scarce and life expectancy has dropped to 36 years.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]

Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2008 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.