Zim polls: Top MDC members 'lose seats'
01 August 2013, 18:00
Harare - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai dismissed
Zimbabwe's election as a farce on Thursday after his rival President Robert
Mugabe's party claimed a landslide victory that would secure another five years
in power for Africa's oldest head of state.
Speaking to reporters at the headquarters of his Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), a downbeat Tsvangirai said Wednesday's vote should
be considered invalid because of polling day irregularities and vote-rigging by
89-year-old Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
"This has been a huge farce," Tsvangirai said.
"In our view, that election is null and void." He did not take
questions, leaving it unclear whether he or his party will mount any kind of
The conflicting claims from the two main competing camps
came even before Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission had issued any official results,
expected by Monday.
The largest independent observer group said the credibility
of the poll was compromised because of voter registration irregularities, with
thousands being disenfranchised.
Wednesday's voting was peaceful across the southern African
nation but the MDC's outright rejection of the vote raises the prospect of an
It also increases the chances of a repeat of the violence
that followed another contested poll in 2008 in the southern African nation,
which has rich reserves of minerals such as chrome, coal, platinum and gold.
A senior source in Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, who asked not to
be named, told Reuters that less than 15 hours after the polls had closed the
result was already clear.
"We've taken this election. We've buried the MDC. We
never had any doubt that we were going to win," the source said, but gave
no vote numbers.
Before party leader Tsvangirai spoke, a senior MDC source
had called the election a "monumental fraud".
Human rights abuses
Releasing unofficial results early in Zimbabwe is illegal,
and police had said they would arrest anybody who did this.
If confirmed, Mugabe's victory is likely to mean five more
years of troubled relations with the West, where the former liberation fighter
is regarded as a ruthless despot responsible for serious human rights abuses
and wrecking the economy.
Western election observers were barred from entering the
former British colony, but the head of an African Union monitoring mission said
the polls had initially appeared "peaceful, orderly and free and
fair" - an assessment also at odds with the view of independent agencies.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the leading
domestic monitoring body, said large numbers of people had been turned away
from polling stations in MDC strongholds.
It also cast doubt on the authenticity of the voters' roll,
noting that 99.97% of voters in the countryside - Mugabe's main source of
support - were registered, against just 67.9% in the mostly pro-Tsvangirai
In all, 6.4 million people, nearly half the population, had
been registered to vote.
"It is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful for
elections to be credible," ZESN chairman Solomon Zwana told a news
conference. "They must offer all citizens... an equal opportunity to
Question over sanctions
Several political sources told Reuters that top MDC members
had lost their parliamentary seats, including some in the capital, Tsvangirai's
main support base since he burst onto the political scene in the former British
colony 15 years ago.
Party insiders spoke of shock at the projected outcome,
which is likely to come under intense scrutiny from Western governments.
The United States, which has sanctions in place against
Mugabe and his inner circle, expressed concerns about the election's
credibility in advance, citing persistent pro-Zanu-PF bias in the state media
and partisan security forces.
The view from Brussels, London and Washington is key to the
future of Zimbabwe's economy, which is still struggling with the aftermath of a
decade-long slump and hyperinflation that ended in 2009 when the worthless
Zimbabwe dollar was scrapped.
Ibbo Mandaza, a political analyst and academic based in
Harare, said it was too early to tell what implications the disputed election
might have for Western sanctions.
"The outcome of the election is fraudulent, we are in a
crisis. I don't know what the way out will be but it will be long and drawn
out," he said.
In March, the European Union suspended most sanctions
against Zimbabwe after voters there approved a new constitution limiting
presidential powers, opening the way for the election.
The International Monetary Fund agreed in June to monitor
Zimbabwe's programmes until the end of the year, paving the way for the country
to clear billions of dollars of debt arrears.