Mugabe Extends 33-Year Zimbabwe Rule as Rival Seeks Support
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was re-elected and won the two-thirds legislative majority his party needs to change the constitution as his main rival urged African leaders to overturn what he said was a fraudulent vote.
Mugabe, 89, got more than 61 percent in the July 31 ballot to extend his 33-year rule, according to results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who won 34 percent, said he wants an investigation of the vote, mainly of the voters roll and ballot papers, and will submit a dossier of alleged fraud to the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. The U.S. called the election “deeply flawed.”
Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front last had a parliamentary majority after elections in 2005 and has shared power with Tsvangirai since 2009, following a disputed poll marked by violence. The main local monitoring team, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said balloting in last month’s vote was “seriously compromised.” The AU and SADC, which sent the biggest international observer teams, endorsed the election as largely free and fair.
“In light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement yesterday.
The U.K. has “grave concerns over the conduct of the election,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement published on the government’s website. “It is important that all allegations of electoral violations are thoroughly investigated.”
The Movement for Democratic Change will use the courts to force a fresh election and won’t participate in any government or state institutions until that happens, Tsvangirai told reporters yesterday in the capital, Harare.
“We didn’t lose this election,” he said. “Instead of celebrating, there is national mourning.”
Zanu-PF won 160 parliamentary seats, compared with 49 for the MDC and one for an independent candidate, according to the commission. A further 60 are reserved for women and allocated by proportional representation. While votes for Tsvangirai slipped from 2008 to 1.17 million, Mugabe almost doubled his total to 2.11 million. A similar pattern was repeated in several constituencies that Zanu-PF won back from the MDC.
Zanu-PF received a mandate to govern and will proceed without the MDC if they boycott the government, Defense Minister Emerson Mnangagwa told reporters.
The international community must “respect the people of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said. “We are now going to implement our indigenization and empowerment policy as a guideline to guide and govern for the next five years.”
Mugabe and Zanu-PF have forced mining companies such as Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP) and Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS) to cede majority stakes in their local assets to black Zimbabweans or the government. The southern African nation has the world’s second-biggest platinum and chrome reserves, as well as diamond, gold and coal deposits. Tsvangirai has promised to repeal the measure.
Commission member Mkhululi Nyathi quit over the manner in which the elections were conducted, the Harare-based Newsday newspaper reported yesterday, citing his resignation letter. Commission spokesman Shupikai Mashereni declined to comment.
Tsvangirai, 61, said thousands of people were turned away from polling stations because they weren’t on the electoral roll, voters were bused to cast ballots outside their home areas and the security forces controlled the election process.
“It’s a classic case of electoral authoritarianism, where elections are used but only to legitimize the regime,” Judy Smith-Hohn, foreign-policy analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said by phone Aug. 2 from Pretoria.
The MDC appeared unlikely to receive support from regional powers that brokered a national unity government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai after violence marred a disputed 2008 vote.
President Jacob Zuma of neighboring South Africa called on all parties to accept the outcome after observers described the vote as “an expression of the will of the people,” according to an e-mailed statement.
The head of the AU observer mission, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said incidents during the election didn’t invalidate the result. “The election is free” and “fairly credible,” he told reporters.
Speaking for the SADC, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said that while the vote was “free and peaceful,” the regional body had yet to determine if it was fair. “We are endorsing the elections,” he said in a separate interview.
Richard Nyeya, 40, a mobile phone-airtime salesman in Harare’s Avondale suburb, disagreed with the assessment. “It’s as obvious as water is wet that the election was rigged,” he said, adding that the whole city is “depressed.”
“The focus was on whether the vote was peaceful, not whether it was a proper election,” said the South African institute’s Smith-Hohn. “The credibility of SADC and the AU as neutral observers is seriously called into question” if they back the outcome without an investigation of the grievances of the MDC and others, she said.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which had almost 10 times as many observers as the AU and SADC, said as many as 1 million voters in the MDC’s urban strongholds were left off the electoral roll.
“Before election day, the voter-registration process was systematically biased against urban voters,” the Zimbabwean monitoring group said in an e-mailed statement on Aug. 1. “A total of 99.97 percent of rural voters were registered, versus only 67.94 percent of urban voters.”
The “credibility, legitimacy, free and fair conduct” of the elections and “their reliability as the true expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe have been highly compromised,” a body of non-governmental groups from across the SADC, which deployed 150 observers to mainly rural areas, said in an Aug. 2 statement.
The MDC “has to look at its shortcomings,” Gwinyayi Dzinesa, a senior researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said Aug. 2 in a phone interview from Harare. “Regardless of the election irregularities, Zanu-PF did its homework.”
The rejection of the vote by Tsvangirai followed a campaign largely free of the violence in the last Mugabe-Tsvangirai contest in 2008.
Tsvangirai led the first round of the election that year before he pulled out of a runoff, saying about 200 of his supporters had been killed. The MDC beat Zanu-PF in the parliamentary ballot. The 15-nation SADC negotiated a power-sharing agreement in 2009, leaving Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister.
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