The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Zimbabwe PM says election was manipulated and is not credible, poses new political crisis

  • Print

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Allegations of vote-rigging flowed in Zimbabwe on Thursday, with reports of fake registration cards, voters turned away from the polls and people appearing on voters' lists four times with different IDs. Even before results were announced, the main opposition camp said longtime President Robert Mugabe stole the election, which his supporters denied.

Either way, the country faces fresh political uncertainty. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the main challenger to Mugabe, said the elections on Wednesday were "null and void" due to violations in the voting process, and a poll monitoring group that is not affiliated with the state said the poll was compromised by a campaign to stop voters from casting ballots.

In the first official results announced by the state election commission late Thursday, Mugabe's party captured 28 of the 210 parliamentary seats, compared to three won by Tsvangirai's party. Most of those results came from Mugabe's rural strongholds.

The state election commission has promised a full tally of results by Monday.

The elections had posed one of the biggest challenges to Mugabe's 33-year grip on power on this former British colony, but claims by his opponents that the election was tainted and declarations of victory by the president's supporters suggested his political career was far from over.

Mugabe's party said Thursday it has withdrawn an unauthorized message on its Twitter feed claiming a resounding victory. The ZANU-PF party said it is awaiting the release of results by the state election commission, the only body allowed under the law to announce the outcome.

Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential run-off vote in 2008 to protest violence against supporters but said in the run-up this year he was confident Zimbabweans would vote for change, even in the most difficult conditions.

"The shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge this country into a serious crisis," Tsvangirai said of the election Wednesday.

Tendai Biti, a top official in Tsvangirai's party, said even rural residents were told to pretend they were illiterate, and therefore had to be assisted in casting their ballots by officials loyal to Mugabe.

Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said accusations of vote-rigging were false.

"We dismiss these allegations with the contempt they deserve because there was absolutely no way of manipulating the system. There was no way of rigging the election," he said.

Zimbabweans braced for tense days ahead. Tsvangirai's party urged supporters not to take to the streets or gather at an open field nicknamed "Freedom Square," its main Harare rallying point, compared by many to Cairo's Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian demonstrations since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The conditions in Zimbabwe are different, though. Mugabe has a strong support base, security forces have traditionally been quick to clamp down on overt dissent and after the 2008 election, Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change joined Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in an uneasy coalition that was regionally brokered.

The coalition ended with the election on Wednesday.

The MDC said in a statement that it received "radical" calls from supporters reflecting "the frustration, hopelessness and anger in every one of us" to actively fight Mugabe's party.

"We understand the tears in everyone's eyes but we certainly do not believe in violence to resolve this," it said.

Tsvangirai's last campaign rally in the open field, opposite the main courthouse in downtown Harare, drew some 50,000 jubilant followers on Monday, in sharp contrast to Mugabe's austere, muted campaign gatherings.

Thabani Nyoni, a civic activist and top researcher at the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an alliance of 70 rights and pro-democracy groups, predicted that protests against election irregularities would likely emerge once official election results have been confirmed.

Voter Matthew Pfuri, a Harare car salesman, said he was shocked by early results coming from polling stations where, under electoral law, summaries are posted outside when initial vote-counting is complete. Mugabe supporters have claimed early, unconfirmed results show them with a decisive lead.

"Maybe it's a good outcome for Tsvangirai. People now know what they are up against and say this blatant abuse can't last much longer," Pfuri said.

Extra police, some in riot gear, were deployed in Harare. One truck of riot police was parked down the street from Tsvangirai's party headquarters.

"If Mugabe's party is celebrating a clean sweep in the elections, why are they sending out trucks of riot police?" asked Jonah Matanga, a nearby street vendor.

Solomon Zwana, head of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said it found a "wide range of problems" in the election and that the poll was compromised by a campaign to stop voters from casting ballots. The monitoring group says as many as 1 million out of more than 6 million eligible voters were not on voters' lists.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart: NDP Self-Destruction

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100527-Winnipeg Free Press THe Provencher Foot Bridge is lit up
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google