Tsvangirai says Zimbabwean poll was not credible

‘HUGE FARCE’::The MDC leader said Wednesday’s poll should be voided because of vote-rigging. Monitors said it was ‘seriously compromised’

Reuters, HARARE

Fri, Aug 02, 2013 - Page 1

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday dismissed Wednesday’s election as a farce after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s party claimed a landslide victory that would secure another five years in power for Africa’s oldest head of state.

Speaking to reporters at the headquarters of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a downbeat Tsvangirai said Wednesday’s vote should be considered invalid because of polling day irregularities and vote-rigging by 89-year-old Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

“This has been a huge farce,” Tsvangirai said. “In our view, that election is null and void.”

He did not take questions, leaving it unclear whether he or his party will mount any kind of legal challenge.

The conflicting claims from the two main competing camps came even before Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission had issued any official results, expected by Monday.

The largest independent observer group said the credibility of the poll was compromised because of voter registration irregulaties, with thousands being disenfranchised.

Wednesday’s voting was peaceful across the southern African nation, but the MDC’s outright rejection of the vote raises the prospect of an acrimonious dispute. It also increases the chances of a repeat of the violence that followed another contested poll in 2008.

A senior source in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, who asked not to be named, said that less than 15 hours after the polls had closed the result was already clear.

“We’ve taken this election. We’ve buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win,” the source said, but gave no vote numbers.

Before Tsvangirai spoke, a senior MDC source had called the election a “monumental fraud.”

Releasing unofficial results early in Zimbabwe is illegal, and police had said they would arrest anybody who did this.

Western election observers were barred from entering the former British colony, but the head of an African Union monitoring mission said the polls had initially appeared “peaceful, orderly and free and fair” — an assessment also at odds with the view of independent agencies.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the leading domestic monitoring body, said large numbers of people had been turned away from polling stations in MDC strongholds.

It also cast doubt on the authenticity of the voters’ roll, noting that 99.97 percent of voters in the countryside — Mugabe’s main source of support — were registered, against just 67.9 percent in the mostly pro-Tsvangirai urban areas.

In all, 6.4 million people, nearly half the population, had been registered to vote.

“It is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful for elections to be credible,” ZESN chairman Solomon Zwana told a news conference. “They must offer all citizens ... an equal opportunity to vote.”

Several political sources said that top MDC members had lost their parliamentary seats, including some in the capital.