Zim vote seriously flawed - observers
01 August 2013, 12:56
Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party claimed on
Thursday that the veteran leader had won the hard-fought election over his
long-time rival but local observers charged that the vote was seriously flawed.
"We have romped [to victory] in a very emphatic manner.
We have defeated the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change]," a top member
of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party told AFP.
He said Mugabe had trounced three-time challenger Morgan
Tsvangirai in Wednesday's vote and that the Zanu-PF had retaken many parliamentary
seats in urban areas, where support for the MDC was believed to be strong.
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There was no immediate confirmation from election
authorities about the claim, and no official results have yet been issued from
the presidential and parliamentary vote.
And local observers cited a slew of flaws that called into
question the victory claim, after the MDC charged that Mugabe's rivals had been
engaged in vote-rigging.
"The election is seriously compromised," said
Solomon Zwana, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Election Support Network. "Up
to a million voters were disenfranchised."
Regional observers from the African Union had said the
process had been "orderly and fair" while the United States said it
was too early to make a full judgement.
Turnout was reported to be high nationwide after queues of
Zimbabweans lined up for hours to vote in the first election since bloody polls
in 2008 that led to the creation of an uneasy government alliance between
Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
The 89-year-old Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, is seeking a
seventh term but Tsvangirai has voiced hope the election will usher in a new
era for the troubled southern African nation.
Final results had been expected within five days of the
election and police warned on Wednesday that anyone trying to release
unofficial figures ahead of time risked being arrested.
Mugabe himself had even threatened to arrest Tsvangirai if
he tried to declare an early victory.
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".
US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf also said early
signs indicated a "peaceful environment" - but that it was too soon
to say if the election had been fair.
"We've made clear to the government of Zimbabwe and the
region that further reductions in our sanctions will only occur if these next
elections are credible, transparent and reflect the will of the Zimbabwean
people," she said.
Despite the tensions over the rigging allegations and the
fierce rhetoric of the campaign, there were no reports of widespread violence.
Many of the 6.4 million eligible voters started queueing
before sunrise in the winter cold, hours before polls opened. The lines
continued well into the evening, with many marking their ballots by candle
Mugabe said after he cast his ballot there was "no
pressure" being exerted on voters.
Series of violent crackdowns
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 minority
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 predicted the MDC would win "quite
"This is a very historic moment for all of us," he
said Wednesday. It is the time to "complete the change".
Tsvangirai 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.
But the 61-year-old former union boss has repeatedly voiced
concerns that the election was being rigged and the MDC on Wednesday listed a
battery of alleged irregularities.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a senior MDC member, said the
names of thousands of voters were missing from the electoral roll and that
there were two million dead people on the lists.
The MDC handed its evidence to observers from the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) and since no Western groups were allowed
to monitor the polls, its account will be closely watched.
Tsvangirai hopes his plans to lure back foreign investors,
create a million jobs in five years and improve public services will 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.
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