Africa

Edgy Zimbabwe awaits more vote results

Susan Njanji

Zimbabwe sat on a knife-edge on Tuesday as it awaited a new leader amid mounting pressure to swiftly release full results of an election already claimed by the opposition. For a second night running, security was stepped up in and around the capital, Harare, in readiness to quell any post-electoral unrest.

Zimbabwe sat on a knife-edge on Tuesday as it awaited a new leader amid mounting pressure to swiftly release full results of an election already claimed by the opposition.

For a second night running, security was stepped up in and around the capital, Harare, in readiness to quell any post-electoral unrest as partial official returns trickling in placed President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party slightly behind challenger Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the legislative election.

But as the much-awaited outcome of the presidential vote was yet to be declared, the MDC claimed on Monday that its leader had taken an unassailable 60% lead, based on unofficial results it tallied.

A respected coalition of NGOs that deployed about 8 000 local election observers, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), has projected, based on a sample of the election results, that Tsvangirai will emerge ahead of Mugabe.

Tsvangirai is projected to get the highest number of votes with 49,4%, trailed by Mugabe at 41,8%.

If no candidate gets more than 50%, a run-off must be held within three weeks.

ZESN head Noel Kututwa said “the public needs to know, everyone is anxious to know who their next president is going to be”.

Pressure has been mounting on Zimbabwe’s poll overseer to announce, without delay, the full results from presidential and parliamentary polls held on Saturday.

Fears abound that delays in releasing full results from Saturday’s ballots could fuel suspicions of vote-rigging, allegedly to help Mugabe extend his 28-year rule.

Foreign governments and an observer mission are calling for the process to be speeded up.

The MDC’s own tally of votes in 128 of the 210 parliamentary seats showed that Tsvangirai had secured 60% of votes against 30% for Mugabe in the presidential race.

The party also calculated that it had won 96 out of the same constituencies, with only 106 needed for an overall majority in Parliament.

‘In the right way’

In the first 89 constituencies to be declared, the MDC was said to have won 46 seats and Zanu-PF 43 seats.

One of the most notable early casualties was Mugabe’s outgoing justice minister, who lost his seat in the rural Makoni Central constituency.

As hours passed between the announcement of different batches of results, the European Union, former colonial power Britain, the United States and Canada called for announcements to be speeded up.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged “that the results come forward soon” as the world is watching closely “wanting to be sure that everything is done fairly and ... in the right way”.

State Department spokesperson Tom Casey said the US was “concerned by the slow pace of the official tabulation”, urging the electoral commission “to release the entire election results, including the presidential election returns, as quickly as possible.”

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Maxime Bernier, urged the African nation to disclose its election results now.

Foreign ministers of seven European Union countries late on Monday called on the electoral commission to “swiftly announce all official election results, especially the results of the presidential election.”

The US urged Zimbabwe’s electoral commission to put aside any partisan sympathies and ensure all votes were fairly and properly counted.

Casey pointed to a long list of irregularities in the run-up to Saturday’s poll, including an over-printing of ballot papers, which he predicted could make vote counting “problematic”.

“We strongly encourage the Zimbabwean electoral commission to do the right thing and honour the will of the Zimbabwean people and to make sure that only the votes cast are counted,” Casey told reporters.

“It is no secret that the Zimbabwean electoral commission has a partisan cast to it and we would certainly hope that regardless of the partisan sympathies of any members of that commission, that they would again follow the letter and spirit of the law,” he added.—Sapa-AFP, Reuters

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