Zim may plunge into crisis – Tsvangirai
01 August 2013, 17:03
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's allies
declared on Thursday that the veteran leader had romped to an election victory,
a claim rejected by his rival who branded the vote a "sham".
A top member of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party told AFP that Mugabe
had trounced Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change in
Wednesday's presidential and parliamentary elections.
"We have romped [to victory] in a very emphatic
manner," said the party member who asked not to be named. "We have
won all of them, including the presidential and parliamentary."
But the claim was swiftly slapped down by Tsvangirai,
bidding for a third time to end 89-year-old Mugabe's 33-year rule of the
troubled southern African country.
"It's a sham election that does not reflect the will of
the people," he said, pointing to a litany of alleged irregularities.
"In our view this election is null and void," he
added. "This election has been a huge farce."
"The shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and
the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge this country into a
Votes are still being counted and no official results have
yet been issued from the election, the first since bloody polls in 2008 led to
an uneasy power-sharing deal between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
Tsvangirai stopped short of claiming victory himself, a move
that could have enflamed tensions in a country where political violence is
The vote itself passed off peacefully, but in a sign of
simmering tensions around 20 riot police were deployed near the headquarters of
Tsvangirai's MDC party, an AFP reporter witnessed.
Foreign diplomats and independent Zimbabwean election
observers also expressed grave misgivings about the conduct of the poll.
"Up to a million voters were disenfranchised,"
said Solomon Zwana the chairman of Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has
7 000 observers. "The election is seriously compromised."
The Catholic Church - which has 3 000 people on the ground -
said it was premature to call a winner but there was a "strong
feeling" across the country that Mugabe would lose.
"If certain people feel their choice was not accepted
they may resort to violence. That potential is still there," a church spokesperson
The African Union, which has been accused of whitewashing
problems in the run-up to the vote, said initial reports indicated it was
"peaceful, orderly, free and fair".
Since no Western groups were allowed to monitor the polls,
the view of observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
may now be pivotal in deciding how the international community reacts.
After years of international sanctions there had been hopes
that a free election would allow Zimbabwe to reset relations with the West.
Turnout was reported to be high, with many of the 6.4
million eligible voters queuing before sunrise in the winter cold, hours before
polls opened. The lines continued well into the evening, with many marking
their ballots by candle light.
Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, is seeking a seventh term
but Tsvangirai has voiced hope the election will usher in a new era.
Final results are expected within five days of the election
and police had warned that anyone trying to release unofficial figures ahead of
time risked being arrested.
Poor black Zimbabweans
Mugabe himself had even threatened to arrest Tsvangirai if
he tried to declare an early victory.
On Tuesday the firebrand had vowed to step down if
Tsvangirai was the victor, saying: "If you lose you must surrender."
Mugabe came to prominence as a hero of Africa's liberation
movement, guiding Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 from Britain and white
But his military-backed rule has been marked by a series of
violent crackdowns, economic crises and suspect elections that have brought
international sanctions and made him a pariah in the West.
As the economy recovers from a crisis that saw mass
unemployment and galloping inflation, Mugabe loyalists insist their hero is
"tried and tested" and dismiss concerns about his age.
Mugabe had focused his campaign on attacking homosexuals and
on promises to widen the redistribution of wealth to poor black Zimbabweans.
Tsvangirai himself had predicted the MDC would win
The 61-year-old former union boss won the first round of
voting in 2008, but was forced out of the race after 200 of his supporters were
killed and thousands more injured in suspected state-backed attacks.
Tsvangirai hoped his plans to lure back foreign investors,
create a million jobs in five years and improve public services would deliver a
But some analysts had cautioned against interpreting high
urban turnout as a sign Tsvangirai would sweep the election - in which the
victor needs more than 50% to avoid a second round.
"This election is going to be decided in the rural
areas," where two thirds of Zimbabweans live and where Mugabe enjoys
strong support, said Michael Bratton, founder of pollsters Afrobarometer.