/ 26 April 2008

No majority for Mugabe in recount

President Robert Mugabe’s party has failed to secure control of Zimbabwe’s Parliament in a partial recount of the March 29 election, results showed on Saturday, handing the ruling party its first defeat in 28 years.

Results of a parallel presidential poll have not been released and Mugabe has been preparing for a run-off against Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Tsvangirai says he won outright and his party has rejected both the recount and any run-off.

For the first time since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, the MDC wrested a parliamentary majority from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF in the election, triggering a recount of 23 out of 210 constituencies.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said that in the 14 out of 23 seats recounted so far, the original results were confirmed.

The commission had ordered the recount after Zanu-PF accused election officials of taking bribes to undercount votes for Mugabe and his ruling party and committing other electoral fraud. A number of election officials have been arrested.

To win back a parliamentary majority, the ruling party needed to win nine more seats than it did in the first count. Only nine are left to be counted — but Zanu-PF already won three of those in the first count.

Delays in the recount and in announcing the presidential result have brought growing international pressure on Mugabe (84) and stoked fears of vote-rigging and bloodshed in a country suffering an economic collapse.

”This recount was a charade and a flawed process. The attempt was to reverse the will of the people and we rejected the recount from the onset. But I can confirm that our earlier majority has been reconfirmed according to information we are receiving,” said MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa.


On Friday, Mugabe resorted to strong measures used in the past to keep the opposition in check, in what Human Rights Watch said was a stepped up ”campaign of organised terror and torture against opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans”.

The government denies it is waging a violent campaign.

Armed riot police raided the MDC’s headquarters and detained scores of people in the toughest measures against the opposition since the disputed elections.

The MDC said those detained included supporters who had sought refuge with them after fleeing various parts of the country ”where the regime has been unleashing brutal violence”.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said 215 people had been arrested in the raid, and no one had been charged yet.

”We have released the elderly and women with babies. There are about 30 of them. We are still doing profiles for the others and checking with their provinces on whether they have committed any crimes there,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said 62 people had come in for treatment over three days, some with broken limbs and one with an axe wound at the back of his head.

Former colonial power Britain, which Mugabe blames for Zimbabwe’s troubles, has called for an arms embargo and requested a United Nations Security Council meeting on the crisis.

Britain said it deplored the escalating violence in Zimbabwe and called for a United Nations mission to inspect human rights abuses. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britain would step up diplomatic efforts ahead of the Security Council meeting.

South Africa’s UN envoy Dumisani Kumalo said someone from the UN secretariat would brief the 15-nation council, probably on Tuesday, on developments in Zimbabwe.

The Western diplomat on the council said any action in the form of a statement or resolution was unlikely. But the meeting would be useful in increasing pressure on Mugabe.

Mugabe, a hero of the independence struggle, accuses the opposition of conspiring with Western critics to end his almost three decades in power, which began with high hopes that Zimbabwe would become an African model of democratic and economic success.

Today, Zimbabweans face severe shortages of basic goods and an inflation rate of 165 000% — the world’s highest. – Reuters

Mugabe has been unable to win back control of Zimbabwe’s parliament after a partial recount of the 29 March election results failed to overturn any of the original results that gave the opposition the majority of seats.

It means the first defeat in 28 years for Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party after Zimbabwe’s electoral commission (ZEC) yesterday released seven more results from the recount, changing none. It brings to 13 the number of seats recounted, with 10 remaining to be declared – all in strong opposition-held areas. Zanu-PF would need to win nine to regain control.

Results have still not been released from the parallel presidential poll which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won, beating Mugabe outright. Independent monitors estimate that Tsvangirai won, but fell just short of the 50 per cent threshold to avoid a run-off. The MDC accuses Mugabe of delaying results to rig his victory and has rejected any run-off.

The failure to announce the results, four weeks on from the vote, is causing mounting concern internationally. But late yesterday afternoon the electoral commission said it would invite presidential candidates to verify the results from Monday, before they are released. ‘We trust that by Monday this process will have been concluded,’ said ZEC chairman George Chiweshe. ‘I can’t say exactly when the results will come.’

Reporters in Zimbabwe say the electoral commission is making the process extremely difficult to follow, and results are being issued in a haphazard manner. The announcements came after a week of escalating attacks on opposition supporters – Tsvangirai is staying out of the country at the moment because of fears about his safety.

On Friday, armed riot police raided the MDC headquarters and detained scores of people in the toughest measures against the opposition since the elections. Computers and documents were seized in the raid.

The MDC says its activists have been attacked around the country – with at least 10 killed. The police claim that no one has died.

Gordon Brown yesterday called for a United Nations mission to inspect human rights abuses. Brown, who is seeking an arms embargo on Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, said Britain would step up diplomatic efforts ahead of this week’s Security Council meeting on the former British colony.

‘The coming days will be critical. We will intensify international action around a Security Council discussion on Tuesday. We will press for a UN mission to investigate the violence and human rights abuses,’ he said in a statement. ‘The whole international community must speak up against the climate of fear in Zimbabwe.’

Zimbabweans are enduring severe shortages of basic goods and an inflation rate of 165 000% — the world’s highest. The state-run Herald newspaper called African leaders ”myopic stooges” for joining western criticism of Zimbabwe’s handling of the election.

Mugabe is beginning to lose regional diplomatic support over the delay in announcing the results and his attempts to retain power through force. His former allies in the Southern African Development Community last week united in condemning him and barred an arms shipment from being unloaded, causing the ship to be recalled to China. Defiant Zanu-PF officials claimed there was no shortage of arms already in or reaching the country.

”I think for the first time, at a very crucial moment, Mugabe is losing diplomatic support in the region and without that support his ability to survive politically is diminished,” said Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe. – Reuters