Prospects grow for election run-off in Zim
Prospects for a run-off in Zimbabwe’s election appeared to increase on Wednesday after state media said President Robert Mugabe had failed to win a majority for the first time in nearly three decades.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai insisted on Tuesday that he would win an outright majority from last Saturday’s election but projections by both the ruling Zanu-PF party and private monitors suggested he would fall short, forcing a second round.
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a thorn in Mugabe’s side for a decade, said he would release his tally of the presidential result on Wednesday. Official results have yet to be announced, fuelling suspicions of rigging.
Both Tsvangirai and the government dismissed widespread speculation that the MDC was negotiating with Zanu-PF for a managed exit for Mugabe, who has ruled uninterrupted for 28 years.
“There is no discussion and this is just a speculative story,” Tsvangirai told a news conference.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 but faced an unprecedented challenge in Saturday’s elections because of the economic collapse of his once-prosperous country, reducing much of the population to misery.
The state-owned Herald newspaper said on Wednesday the MDC and Zanu-PF would tie in the parliamentary poll and projections for the presidential election showed neither Tsvangirai or Mugabe will get the 51% majority needed.
“The pattern of results in the presidential election show that none of the candidates will garner more than 50% of the vote, forcing a re-run,” it said.
The prospect of a run-off has raised fears both inside and outside Zimbabwe that the three-week hiatus before a new vote would spark serious violence between security forces and militia loyal to Mugabe on one side and MDC supporters on the other.
The Herald also said the government had decided to immediately implement tax relief to cushion the effect of runaway inflation, officially more than 100Â 000% but estimated to be much higher—the world’s highest rate.
A senior Western diplomat in Harare told Reuters the international community was discussing ideas to try to persuade Mugabe to step down, “but I don’t think there is anything firm on the table”.
Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan said the election stand-off in Zimbabwe could turn into violence but hoped the country would avoid the bloodshed recently witnessed in Kenya after disputed elections there.
No presidential results have been announced four days after polls closed, fuelling suspicions that Mugabe was trying to avoid defeat by rigging.
But two Zanu-PF party sources said on Tuesday its projections showed Tsvangirai getting 48,3% against Mugabe’s 43%, with former finance minister Simba Makoni taking 8%.
Latest results from the parliamentary election showed Zanu-PF with two more seats than the mainstream MDC, and five seats going to a breakaway faction of the opposition. 189 seats have now been announced from a total of 210.
Seven of Mugabe’s ministers have lost their seats.
Tsvangirai and many foreign governments urged the electoral commission to speed up result announcements.
Meanwhile, South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu on Wednesday proposed sending an international peacekeeping force to Zimbabwe in the wake of the unresolved presidential elections.
Tutu told the BBC he favoured “a mixed force of Africans and others” to protect human rights in the beleaguered African country.
“It is a peacekeeping force,” he said. “It is not one that is going to be aggressive. It is merely ensuring that human rights are maintained.”
The former archbishop said he supported any deal that would stave off conflict in Zimbabwe, but added that he believed the evidence supported claims by the MDC that it had unseated Mugabe.
“Anything that would save the possibilities of bloodshed, of conflict, I am quite willing to support,” he said.
“The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough, and we don’t ... want any more possibilities of bloodshed.”
He continued: “In a fraught situation such as we have had in Zimbabwe, anything that is helping towards a move, a transition, from the repression to the possibilities of democracy and freedom, oh, for goodness sake, please let us accept that.”
Peter Hain, a former British government minister who was a prominent campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, meanwhile said Britain, Zimbabwe’s former colonial ruler, should not act unilaterally to hasten Mugabe’s departure.
Hain called on the international community to put pressure on the backers of Mugabe’s government, including China.
“What matters is that there is an orderly transition of power and that if Robert Mugabe needs a safe passage then the international community can accommodate that,” Hain told BBC radio.—Reuters, AFP