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Zimbabwe Election Commission begins announcing results of polls

Monsters and Critics

Mar 31, 2008, 5:30 GMT

Johannesburg/Harare - The Zimbabwe Election Commission began Monday morning
to release the results of Saturday's elections, in which the opposition
claims to have ousted the country's leader of 28 years, President Robert

The ZEC began issuing results from the assembly elections, one of four votes
in the combined presidential, assembly, senate and local elections, with ZEC
chairman George Chiweshe warning the process could take two days.

Tensions rose Sunday as the ZEC kept mum on the outcome of the election, in
which Mugabe was battling for another five years in power, and the Movement
for Democratic Change of Morgan Tsvangirai rushed to claim victory.

The MDC claimed to have thumped Mugabe and his Zanu-PF, including in some
rural areas previously considered ruling party strongholds, but their claim
was based on partial, unofficial results.

Government spokesman George Charamba termed the victory claim a coup d'etat,
adding 'we all know how coups are handled.'

The elections, which were largely peaceful, were seen as a vote mainly on
the economic chaos wrought by Mugabe's populist policies, that have resulted
in six-figure inflation and widespread food, fuel and drug shortages.

An observer team from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community,
while citing a number of concerns, said the elections were 'peaceful' and

The MDC claimed 67 per cent of the vote after results from around one third
of polling stations were counted. 'But they (the government) still might
steal it,' MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti warned.

The government dismissed the MDC's victory claim as 'speculation and lies'
that caused 'unnecessary havoc.'

Mugabe, who declared himself confident of another five years to add to his
28 years in power, has vowed to respect the wishes of Zimbabweans but also
said recently the MDC would 'never' govern.

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Zimbabwe Opposition Wins 4 Of First 6 Seats Declared


HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP)--Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change
took an early lead Monday in the country's general election, winning four
out of the first six seats to be declared by the electoral commission.

The other two parliamentary seats were won by the ZANU-PF party of veteran
President Robert Mugabe who is trying to secure a sixth term in office.

The MDC won the first seat to be declared, the newly-formed constituency of
Chegutu West, around 100 kilometres (65 miles) west of the capital Harare,
commission spokesman Utoile Silaigwana told reporters.

A total of 210 parliamentary seats are due to be declared as well as the
result of the simultaneous presidential election.

The initial results were announced at the commission's temporary
headquarters nearly 36 hours after polls closed in the election in the
troubled southern African country, which has the world's highest rate of

  (END) Dow Jones Newswires

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By hook or by crook in Zimbabwe?

Mar 30th 2008 | JOHANNESBURG

Zimbabwe’s opposition declares victory. But official results are delayed,
amid accusations of rigging

DESPERATE to avoid having a victory stolen from them, again, the leaders of
Zimbabwe’s opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have
declared themselves the winners of general elections held on Saturday March
29th. Their declaration may well be justified, but it is premature and
likely to be overruled.

The MDC says that its leader and presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai,
was ahead in the race for the presidency with about two thirds of the vote
counted. The MDC has tallied results that were posted outside polling
stations in some parts of the country, especially in the urban areas where
the opposition is strong. The party claims that it did similarly well in the
parliamentary election, for example bagging most of the seats in Harare and
Bulawayo, the country’s two main cities. A rival opposition movement led by
a former ally of President Robert Mugabe, Simba Makoni, whose impact appears
to have been limited on the presidential race, also suggests that the MDC
has “swept the board”, in the parliamentary elections at least.

But those running Zimbabwe’s elections have allowed a long delay before
declaring the official outcome. Results are yet to be announced from some
parts of the rural areas and, it is widely assumed, officials loyal to the
ruling ZANU-PF party of Mr Mugabe are arranging some way to keep their man
in office. The opposition claims are based on partial results, mainly from
towns. The few results from the countryside, where the ruling party usually
dominates, suggest that the outcome will be much closer. Officials have
given warning to the opposition not to jump the gun. The government’s main
spokesman, George Charamba, has compared the MDC’s claims of victory to a

The voting was not without problems. Some complained of being turned away
from polling stations at schools, marquees and community halls because of
irregularities on the voters’ roll. The MDC said that its official observers
were sometimes denied entry to polling stations. Concern about intimidation
arose because policemen, for the first time, were deployed inside polling
stations. But one fear, that voters in densely-populated opposition
strongholds would not have time to cast ballots, seemed unfounded. In some
places determined voters had started queuing the night before to be ready to
cast ballots from 7am, but long lines that were apparent in the morning had
largely dissipated by the afternoon.

Another worry, that “ghost” voters would inflate support for Mr Mugabe and
the ruling party, seemed more justified. About 5.9m voters were registered
in about 9,000 polling stations, some in remote or sparsely-populated areas
that were hard for the opposition or monitors to visit. Western journalists
and observers were barred from the country, but African monitors raised
concerns over irregularities in the voters’ roll: in Harare for example,
about 8,500 voters were registered with addresses that turned out to be
vacant land. The opposition complained that 3m extra ballot papers had been
printed. As was typical in other rigged elections in Zimbabwe, rivals to Mr
Mugabe were only handed the voters’ roll just before election day.

It is in the counting and tallying, however, that most feared that rigging
would take place. After voting closed on Saturday the counting began at
polling stations, with some officials working by candlelight or kerosene
lamps. Official results, however, were to be announced centrally—leaving
officials scope to tamper with the overall score to favour Mr Mugabe. The
opposition suggests that delays are a sign that results from polling
stations, especially in remote areas, are being massaged as they are
collated centrally.

The army and the police are also on the streets and have given warning that
any violence would not be tolerated. In any case Mr Mugabe says he is
confident of another victory and he has dismissed accusations of rigging.
“Why should I cheat? The people are there supporting us, day in, day out,”
he says. Ahead of the poll, he was in a generous mood, distributing tractors
and ploughs in rural areas. It seems most unlikely that a majority voters
would want to keep Mr Mugabe as their president, given the country’s
economic collapse, plummeting life expectancy and mass emigration. Rough
opinion polls organised in the weeks before the election suggested that, if
all were free and fair, Mr Tsvangirai should have won, with Mr Mugabe second
and Mr Makoni a distant third. If none were to get more than 50% in the
first round, a second round would be held. Whether the official results come
anywhere close to that suggested reality, however, remains to be seen.

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Robert Mugabe's defeat cannot be covered up


Last Updated: 12:01am BST 31/03/2008

It is no small feat to rig an election. Dictators employ all sorts of
ruses in the run-up to polling day: they disqualify opposition candidates,
they strike likely opponents off the electoral register, they add bogus
supporters of their own, they abuse the state media, they intimidate, they
bribe. But they rarely resort to outright ballot-stuffing: the logistics are
too difficult.

Robert Mugabe has not enjoyed genuine majority support in Zimbabwe
since at least 2000. But he has always managed to get his rigging in
beforehand, so to speak - not least because a large minority of Zimbabweans
genuinely supported Zanu-PF, making it feasible to massage the number up to
a majority.

This is no longer true. After 28 years, Mr Mugabe has left his country
broken and bleeding. Inflation is running at 165,000 per cent. Eighty per
cent of Zimbabweans are unemployed. A country that was once a major food
exporter is close to starvation. No one now supports Mr Mugabe except his
clansmen, his cronies and his clients: those who have been given confiscated
farmland, for example. The extent of Mr Mugabe's unpopularity makes it
impossible for Zanu-PF to "manage" an election. It cannot engineer a victory
this time without straightforward fraud.

The trouble is that large-scale fraud is hard to disguise. Four
simultaneous elections have just taken place in Zimbabwe: for the
presidency, for the house of assembly, for the newly reinstated senate and
for local councils. Election officials cannot simply declare majorities for
Mugabe in the presidential poll while announcing figures that show Zanu-PF
being defeated at every other level in the same constituencies. It was
precisely such discrepancies that betrayed Mwai Kibaki's ballot-stealing in
Kenya three months ago. And so we reach the current situation.

Even before any declarations the opposition was claiming victory. The
returning officers' reticence is deeply worrying, suggesting that Mugabe's
main concern was to find a way to disregard the poll and remain in office.
His success depended partly on the people of Zimbabwe and partly on the rest
of the world.

Zimbabwean opposition figures may take to the streets if their victory
is stolen from them. The belief that violent resistance is legitimate in the
absence of majority rule was, of course, the founding ideology of the
Zimbabwean state. Equally, though, the rest of the world must support
democracy. This includes China, Zimbabwe's main economic guarantor; and it
includes South Africa, whose ANC rulers, whether from anti-colonial
solidarity or from a sneaking admiration for their neighbour's
authoritarianism, have so far been shamefully restrained in their criticism.

It was the volte face by South Africa's white rulers that forced
democracy on Rhodesia. Now is an opportunity for their black successors to
display similar magnanimity and a similar grasp of reality.

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Anti-riot police deploy ahead of Zimbabwe results


HARARE, March 31 (AFP)

Anti-riot police deployed on the streets of Zimbabwe's capital Monday ahead
of the release of the first results from elections in which President Robert
Mugabe is fighting to stay in office.

An AFP correspondent saw groups of police armed with batons patrol the
streets in central Harare as people walked to work.

Tension has mounted in Zimbabwe over the delay in releasing any figures from
Saturday's joint presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.

First results were expected to be released on Monday morning.

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Tension in Zimbabwe as opposition claims win

Financial Times

By Alec Russell, Southern Africa Correspondent

Published: March 29 2008 19:42 | Last updated: March 30 2008 18:16

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party were Sunday
night locked in a stand-off with the country’s main opposition after the
Movement for Democratic Change claimed victory in the weekend’s bitterly
contested presidential and parliamentary elections.

It is unknown how Mr Mugabe and his allies will react to what looks like a
resounding defeat. It was announced at midnight Sunday night that the
results would start to be published at 6am Monday.

The government and election authorities condemned the opposition for
declaring victory before the official count was released.

Diplomats and election observers expressed mounting concern that Zanu-PF was
trying to rig the election as the state-appointed Zimbabwe Election
Commission had not released any results more than 24 hours after the polls
closed. But Judge George Chiweshe, ZEC chairman, told state television that
all results would be released by the end of Monday. “It’s an involving and
laborious process,” he said.

In an implicit warning to the MDC, he added: “The commission would like to
reiterate that it and it alone is the sole legitimate source of all

Riot police were reported to be patrolling the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital
Sunday night and residents were told to stay indoors.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the main wing of the MDC, earlier said
returns from just over a third of polling stations gave party leader Morgan
Tsvangirai 67 per cent of the vote.

“We’ve won this election,” Mr Tsvangirai told a pre-dawn press conference in
Harare. “In our view the trend is irreversible.”

But he said he was concerned that Zanu-PF officials might try to skew the
results in their favour – as they are widely accused of having done in the
last presidential poll in 2002. MDC insiders said Sunday night that they had
opened talks with elements in the security forces in an attempt to prevent a

Mark Malloch Brown, minister for Africa, said: “It’s quite clear President
Mugabe has lost despite massive pre-election day cheating that had been
organised and structured. If that is the case we will work vigorously with
the international community to make sure the people’s will prevails.”

Independent observers told the Financial Times their tally of the official
results posted outside ballot stations gave Mr Tsvangirai a 55 per cent
majority, with the 84-year-old president on 36 per cent.

The results were from two-thirds of the polling stations, including almost
90 per cent from urban areas, traditional opposition strongholds, and 42 per
cent from rural areas, the base of Zanu’s PF’s support, the observers said.

Saturday’s elections have been the most bitterly contested in the 28 years
since Zimbabwe won independence. Mr Mugabe’s challengers, Mr Tsvangirai and
Simba Makoni, a former finance minister, sought to capitalise on the
implosion of the economy and collapse of public services.

With inflation running between 100,000 and 400,000 per cent there is a
palpable sense of desperation across the country. But in a reflection of the
extreme delicacy of the situation, on the eve of the vote, the chiefs of the
security forces said they would not take orders from Mr Mugabe’s challengers
if they won the poll.

Noel Kututwa, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an
independent monitoring group, called on ZEC to issue the votes immediately.
“The delay is fuelling speculation that there is something going on,” he

As he voted, Mr Mugabe said he was interested only in a free and fair
election. “We do not rig elections. We have that sense of honesty. I cannot
sleep with my conscience if I have cheated in elections,” he said.

The winner needs more than 50 per cent to avoid a run-off.

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Q&A: "No Problems in Voting, So Why Should There Be Problems in Counting?"


Interview with Noel Kututwa

HARARE, Mar 31 (IPS) - While the run-up to Zimbabwe's general elections,
Saturday, was plagued with irregularities, the voting process itself has
been given a relatively clean bill of health by the Zimbabwe Election
Support Network (ZESN), which encompasses 38 civic groups.

Presidential, National Assembly, Senate and local government polls took
place Mar. 29, the first instance in which all four such elections were held
jointly. President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai -- leader of the main
faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change -- and independent
candidate Simba Makoni were the main contenders for the presidency, while 17
parties contested the remaining polls.

ZESN deployed 8,000 observers to monitor polling. During a press conference
in the capital, Harare, it said the ballot was marred by fewer incidents of
overt violence than was the case for past votes.

The network further noted that across Zimbabwe the opening of polling
stations occurred largely without serious problems, and that the voting
process was also mostly free of snags: 71 percent of voting was without any
problems, 26 percent affected by minor problems, and three percent by major
difficulties. The problems related in part to voters going to the wrong ward
to cast ballots, and presentation of incorrect identification documents.

Reporter Elles van Gelder spoke to ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa on Sunday to
find out more about the network's assessment of polling.

IPS: President Mugabe's decision to allow police in polling stations,
supposedly to assist disabled and illiterate voters, was heavily criticised
by the opposition. Did it in fact lead to instances of intimidation?

Noel Kututwa (NK): There has been a police presence in and outside the
stations and there have been reports of intimidation. Just the presence of
police, mainly in rural areas, is intimidation enough. The police in
Zimbabwe are associated with perpetrating violence, threatening the ordinary
Zimbabwean...If you get into trouble the police aren't an authority where
you go to seek protection.

IPS: Were there difficulties as a result of poor voter education?

NK: The voter education was grossly inadequate. We were banned from doing
voter education so it was only ZEC (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) doing
voter education, and that was very limited. They deployed voter educators
throughout the country, but those voter educators were also not very well
trained and they were giving wrong information to the voters. Voters weren't
well prepared.

IPS: Do you have fears about irregularities in the counting process?

NK: Everybody is concerned. The results are taking long. The last elections,
the results started to come in at midnight of the day of voting. That is a
key issue. If results come in tomorrow (Monday), that is very late.

IPS: Isn't the delay caused by the fact of four elections being held at

NK: No, this election was very smooth, things went extremely well -- even to
our surprise. There were no problems in voting, so why should there be
problems in counting? The highest number of voters at one station I heard so
far is 1,500. So, we expected the results to be in.

IPS: There were fears that the number of polling stations in urban areas -- 
known to be opposition strongholds -- would prove too few. Were there enough
polling stations, ultimately?

NK: Yes, there were. (END/2008)

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Zimbabwe Unofficial Results Disputed

New York Times
Alexander Joe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A crowd celebrating in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sunday after unofficial results suggested a landslide victory by the opposition.

Published: March 31, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s main opposition party said Sunday that it had won a landslide victory, insisting that unofficial election results showed that the Movement for Democratic Change had unseated President Robert G. Mugabe, the man who has led this nation for 28 years.

Those results had been compiled by adding the vote counts posted at thousands of individual polling stations, and were not formally released by the government. Indeed, the nation’s chief election officer warned that the opposition’s boasts were premature and asked people to wait for official totals.

People did just that, anxiously watching the government television station on Sunday for announcements about the election the day before. But instead of news they were shown irrelevant fare like a program about biodegradable Chinese plastic and a documentary about the Netherlands’ 1974 soccer team.

Near midnight, the election commissioner, George Chiweshe, finally announced that the official results would begin coming out at 6 a.m. Monday. At the appointed hour no results were forthcoming. “It is of absolute necessity that at each stage the result be meticulously analyzed, witnessed and confirmed,” he said. Soon after the designated time, an election official began laboriously reading results, but only of parliamentary races.

In the meantime, Zimbabwe’s future has seemed to rest in a state of suspended animation, with people awaiting the first official results, wondering if the numbers were being carefully tabulated or craftily concocted.

“We’ve won this election,” declared Tendai Biti, the M.D.C.’s general secretary, in something like a pre-emptive strike. “The trend is irreversible.”

“The results coming in show that in our traditional strongholds, we are massacring them,” he said. “In Mugabe’s traditional strongholds, they are doing very badly. There is no way Mugabe can claim victory except through fraud. He has lost this election.”

If Mr. Mugabe, 84, is defeated, it may mean a new chance for a once prosperous country that now has one of the world’s sorriest economies. It would surely be a signal event for Africa itself, with another of its enduring autocrats beaten against long odds by the will of the electorate.

The M.D.C.’s presidential candidate is Morgan Tsvangirai, a former labor leader. In 2002, the early count also showed him well ahead of Mr. Mugabe. Then the broadcast of results suddenly stopped. When they resumed, hours later, the president had thundered ahead based on late returns.

Outcries about fraud were among the reasons for rule changes this time. It was agreed that results would be counted at each polling station and then publicly posted to prevent any trickery with the numbers.

Late Saturday, many of those posted numbers began traveling across the country as text messages on cellphones, passed along not only between party activists but between journalists and independent election watchdogs.

“It’s a tsunami for M.D.C.,” was a phrase frequently repeated.

The party had not only swept most of the big cities like Harare and Bulawayo, where it was previously strong, the opposition said, but it had also won in Masvingo and Bindura and dozens of other places it had never won before.

Seven of Mr. Mugabe’s cabinet members were defeated in their races for Parliament, according to reports phoned in by journalists. It appeared that Mr. Mugabe was being thoroughly repudiated.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an independent civic group, employed an elaborate plan to gather the posted returns. By Sunday afternoon, Noel Kututwa, its chief, said the organization had collected 88 percent of the urban vote and 40 percent of the rural vote. He criticized the government for not releasing the totals sooner. “The delay in announcing the votes has fueled the speculation that something is going on,” he said.

Mr. Kututwa refused to say which candidate was winning in the results he had in hand. But another member of the support network, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Mugabe was well behind.

Still, even by the support network’s math, there were a lot of polling stations whose vote totals were unknown, including many in the rural areas of Mashonaland where the president has always reaped sizable margins.

Even while declaring victory, Mr. Biti of the M.D.C. worried aloud about a reversal of fortune. “In some areas where we thought the results were final, some ballot boxes are actually missing,” he said.

There were other worrisome signs. Prior to the election, Zimbabwe’s security chiefs each said they would support no one but Mr. Mugabe, a hero of the country’s struggle against colonialism. In a joint announcement, they also warned opposition candidates from making victory proclamations based on unofficial totals and “thereby fomenting disorder and mayhem.”

Helmeted riot police patrolled many of Harare’s streets late Sunday.

Come Monday, the followers of one candidate or the other were expected to feel deeply aggrieved. President Mugabe has cast the opposition as puppets of Zimbabwe’s colonial masters, the British. If he loses, some will feel their national sovereignty has been put at risk. On the other hand, if Mr. Mugabe wins, the M.D.C. will undoubtedly allege that the vote was stolen.

Mr. Mugabe has presided over an economic freefall that began in 2000 when the government seized agricultural land owned by whites. About a quarter of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people have fled the country; 80 percent to 90 percent of those left are unemployed.

The inflation rate is more than 100,000 percent.

But Mr. Mugabe’s government controls the news media here and has doled out food and other favors that critics see as attempts to buy votes. And the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a body dominated by Mr. Mugabe’s appointees, has been commonly accused by the M.D.C. of rigging elections.

Still, there was hope here that this election might be more transparent than the last. Last March, Mr. Tsvangirai was badly beaten by the police at a prayer rally, but he has campaigned largely without interference, speaking to huge crowds.

The posting of results by precinct has contributed to the optimism.

“The key has always been to get the results posted at the polling stations,” said Mike Davies, a longtime community activist with the Combined Harare Residents Association. “If the results are posted, it becomes so much harder for Mugabe to cheat.”

But he too was cautious. “It’s hard for me to believe that Mugabe will go peacefully,” he said. “When autocrats fall, that’s the most dangerous time.”

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Nation Holds Its Breath Over Election Results


By Ephraim Nsingo*

HARARE, Mar 31 (IPS) - Zimbabweans heard Sunday night that the results of
this weekend's general elections would be declared from 06.00 local time
(04.00 GMT) on Monday. This came amidst mounting fears that the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission's (ZEC) failure to reveal the outcome of the vote
earlier signaled further efforts to rig the polls.

Previous ballots have seen results issued within hours of voting.

In an announcement on state television about the time when the outcome would
be made known, ZEC Chairman George Chiweshe said there was nothing untoward
about unveiling the results on Monday.

"In other countries, it takes longer than that -- at times up to one week.
There is nothing peculiar about this election in Zimbabwe; the commission is
a professional and constitutional body," he noted.

"The reason why we did this is because we have to collate the presidential

However, Chiweshe's words were likely to have been dismissed by opposition
members and activists, who have persistently accused the commission of being
biased towards President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

"Some rigging is going on somewhere, so they delay the announcement to
perfect it," said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional
Assembly, a civic body that lobbies for constitutional reform in Zimbabwe.

In an earlier sign of scepticism about the ZEC, the main faction of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) announced that it was on
track to win the elections, based on results already displayed at about a
third of polling stations; the party claimed it was leading with 67 percent
of votes.

State security forces had banned pre-empting the ZEC on the outcome of the
Mar. 29 elections. But, the MDC faction -- led by Morgan Tsvangirai -- 
argued that the results cited were already in the public domain, and that
its announcement was to guard against votes being tampered with at a
national command centre where results are finalised.

Amongst the officials reacting angrily to the announcement was Information
Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, who described the claims of victory as
"speculation and lies".

"We have got the Zimbabwe independent electoral commission; only that
commission announces the results, so before that official announcement I
don't comment," he said.

"Biti and the MDC are famous for speculation and lies peddling in the
country and causing unnecessary havoc here," Ndlovu added, in reference to
Tendai Biti, secretary-general of MDC-Tsvangirai, who addressed the news
conference Sunday where the MDC announced its lead.

The faction has reportedly claimed gains even in the provinces of
Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Masvingo -- seen as Mugabe

"For us farm workers, this marks the end of tyranny. We have suffered a
lot," said a labourer who works at Cornucopia Farm Orchard, a property in
Mashonaland West appropriated by Deputy Youth Development and Employment
Creation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere under Zimbabwe's controversial land
redistribution policy.

"Since this man took over the farm, our lives have been a nightmare. He does
not pay on time, but he now makes us work far more than we used to. Saviour
is fortunate he did not contest here, otherwise we would punish him heavily
for his sins."

Kasukuwere contested the Mount Darwin South seat, also in Mashonaland
Central; according to preliminary results released by the opposition, he has
managed to retain his seat.

Starting in 2000, government oversaw the seizure of farms owned by minority
whites. Supposedly for resettlement of landless blacks, the initiative has
seen a number of properties taken over by high-ranking officials. It is also
considered a key factor in the economic collapse of Zimbabwe, which now
battles inflation of about 100,000 percent, unemployment of up to 80
percent, and widespread shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency. Once
efficient social services in the Southern African nation are crumbling.

"There are certain areas which had been declared permanent ZANU-PF
strongholds, and to have the opposition sweeping through in those areas is
enough evidence that -- without rigging -- the ruling party will emerge
empty handed," said political analyst John Makumbe.

However, fears of rigging are widespread. In the run-up to Saturday's vote,
the opposition, along with various rights groups and think-tanks,
highlighted an array of factors that have blighted the polls, ranging from
intimidation of the opposition, bias in the state-controlled media and a
shaky voters' roll to manipulation of food aid and the exclusion of election
observers from countries critical of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe and the ruling party stand accused of using similar tactics to rig
parliamentary elections in 2000 and 2005, and a presidential poll in 2002.

Still, the extent of economic and social hardship that now afflicts Zimbabwe
leads some to believe that the 2008 poll will defy the odds.

There is "no way ZANU-PF heavyweights could expect to win this election
under the current circumstances, for which they are responsible," said
Gorden Moyo, an analyst and civic activist based in Bulawayo, the country's
second-largest city.

"In the past, it was easy for them to manipulate voters because the
situation was not as bad as it is now. The economy at the moment is the
biggest opposition to ZANU-PF and there is no way they could have expected
to win. People are disgruntled with the current government's failures."

Almost six million people were registered to cast ballots in the polls,
which marked the first time that presidential, National Assembly, Senate and
local government elections were held on the same day.

Voting was largely peaceful (see: Q&A: "No Problems in Voting, So Why Should
There Be Problems in Counting?"), with certain Zimbabweans queuing for hours
before polling stations opened to ensure that they would be able to cast
their ballots.

Mugabe, in power since independence and seeking a sixth term in office,
faced three challengers -- notably Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni: a former
finance minister and ZANU-PF member who was expelled from the party after he
broke ranks to contest the presidency. If none of the presidential
candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, then a run-off will have
to be held within three weeks.

Parliamentary and local government polls attracted 17 parties -- the most
prominent being ZANU-PF and MDC-Tsvangirai -- and 116 independent
candidates, mostly under the banner of Makoni's Mavambo/Kusile group.
("Mavambo" is a Shona word that means "beginning"; "kusile" is Ndebele for

The wait for results has prompted comparisons between the Zimbabwe and
Kenya, where head of state Mwai Kibaki's disputed win in the Dec. 27
presidential election came after a delay in the announcement of results.
Over a thousand people died and many more were displaced in clashes sparked
by the opposition's refusal to accept these results.

MDC-Tsvangirai has indicated that it too will not accept the outcome of a
poll seen as rigged; security officials, for their part, have warned against
a repeat of Kenya's violence in Zimbabwe.

* With additional reporting by Elles van Gelder

The election in quotes

"We do not rig elections. We have that sense of honesty. I cannot sleep with
my conscience if I have cheated on elections."

President Robert Mugabe

"All along, these people have been using us and taking us for granted, but
now we know their dirty tricks and we will not allow them to use us as their
political condoms. Immediately after winning elections, they would dump us
and only think of us when there is another election. We are happy all of us
have finally realised this dirty game."

Mathew Chideu, a voter in Bindura -- capital of Mashonaland Central
Province -- in reference to ZANU-PF.

"I voted for Tsvangirai. The old man has been in power too long and the
country is going to waste. I want change, but I don't trust Simba Makoni
because he used to be of ZANU-PF."

Tendai, a gardener who voted in Harare.

"My man is Makoni. Him coming into the race was a wake up call. That he is
ZANU-PF doesn't make him a bad guy. He has new and fresh ideas. Tsvangirai
didn't deliver last time…I doubt if these elections will be free and fair,
but it is the best chance we will get for change."

Leslie Makawa Tongai, a 24-year-old musician who voted in Harare.

"I am looking for a truck to move from State House. Do you know anybody with
a truck? Mugabe."

A mobile phone text message doing the rounds in Zimbabwe. (END/2008)

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Vote Count Tests Zimbabwean Patience


By Howard Lesser
Washington, DC
31 March 2008

In what is being described as an excruciatingly slow vote counting process,
Zimbabwe voters expectantly awaited the results of Saturday’s presidential
and parliamentary elections.  Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) has been citing interpretations of early unofficial results as
indicating victory for opponents of President Robert Mugabe, who are trying
to oust him from 28 years of ruling the country.  But the executive director
of the US-based Zimbabwe Trust, Annabel Hughes, says such a mood of
anticipation has the potential of turning violent if expectations are not

I think there’s an enormous amount of tension – excitement and tension – on
the ground.  I think that there is a very big chance of violence, especially
if the election is stolen by the Robert Mugabe party,” she cautioned.

Based on its interpretation of unofficial returns, the MDC claimed victory
from early precinct returns in the capital Harare, where it professed to
have received 66 percent of the vote.  Other early successes pointed out by
the MDC focused on previously recognized Mugabe strongholds of Mashonaland
West and Masvingo, in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s party
claimed to hold early leads.  Annabel Hughes recognizes the parallel of
Kenya’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) asserting an early lead
after last December 27’s presidential vote, only to see it vanish with an
incumbent president’s declaration of victory.  But she notes that conditions
for the way that violence might manifest itself could differ significantly
in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwe is very different from Kenya in that we do not have the diversity
of ethnicity. Whereas the Kenyans attacked each other tribe by tribe, in
Zimbabwe, we don’t have the same complexity.  And therefore the violence, I
assume, would have pitted have-nots against the haves, political party
against political party,” she noted.

Although expectations of an opposition victory in Kenya that were rudely
thwarted prompted sharp ethnic clashes that resulted in about one thousand
deaths, Hughes says she can understand why Zimbabwe’s MDC was not willing to
show greater restraint before opting to release news of its early election
lead before the final tabulations were issued.

“I wouldn’t (hold back the news) if I were them because I’m convinced that
they probably are correct because the majority of Zimbabwean people want
change.  They don’t have any money.  They are starving.  There’s 80 percent
unemployment.  There’s 150-thousand percent inflation.  It’s a very, very
difficult situation for every Zimbabwean there.  I just think people want
change and therefore, they would support anyone in opposition now too,
although I think that Morgan Tsvangirai certainly has the most recognizable
brand,” she said.

Hughes said ZANU-PF independent breakaway presidential candidate Simba
Makoni “hasn’t really featured.  He came in really late in the game” with
little opportunity to gain recognition through the media and the internet in
a country that is subject to frequent power cuts.  The delay in releasing
official results has boosted speculation among Zimbabweans about anticipated
vote-rigging by incumbent Mugabe’s regime. The Zimbabwe Trust’s Annabel
Hughes says that President Mugabe may have to face answering other lingering
questions if no presidential candidate exceeds the fifty percent majority
needed to win the election outright and a second-round run-off vote is

“All that remains to be seen now is what is going to happen.  Are the
soldiers going to be with him or against him? Is he going to call them into
the streets?  At this moment, now, it is anybody’s guess about what is going
to emerge.  But you can rest assured that Robert Mugabe is a very, very,
very ruthless man. He has never been afraid of administering strong-arm
tactics when he’s threatened,” she noted.

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Election results on the web

Click link to access website with Zimbabwe Election Results:

Click link to results "independently" collected from polling stations:

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