“This election was stolen,” said Douglas Mwonzora, a spokesman for the M.D.C. “We are seeking that the election be nullified and that a new election be held within 60 days.”
Zimbabwe’s long-awaited presidential contest was held on July 31 amid fears that the violence that plagued the 2008 election season would erupt again. The voting was peaceful this time, but marred by a number of problems. The parties were not given a copy of the final voter rolls until the day before the election, and when it did arrive it was on paper, not in a digital format that could easily be analyzed to look for fraud.
Many voters, particularly in urban areas where the challengers draw support, were not represented on the voter lists and were turned away from the polls, observers said. Beyond that, observers said, an unusually high number of voters were assisted in casting their ballots, another sign that voters might have been pressured by the governing party to vote in Mr. Mugabe’s favor. Far more ballots were printed than were actually needed, and many of those extra ballots have not been accounted for, observers added.
The size of Mr. Mugabe’s victory raised eyebrows in Zimbabwe. In the first round of voting in 2008, he won fewer votes than Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the M.D.C., but Mr. Tsvangirai refused to participate in a runoff because of violent state-sponsored attacks on his supporters.
More than 200 people died in the crisis, with thousands of others beaten and intimidated. Regional powers worked out an uneasy power-sharing agreement that put both parties in power, albeit with the M.D.C. as the junior partner.
The elections were meant to be held in 18 months, but it took more than five years. Few expected that Mr. Mugabe’s popularity would rebound so robustly. Mr. Tsvangirai won roughly the same number of votes as he did in 2008, but Mr. Mugabe doubled his tally, raising questions for some about whether the result was legitimate.
Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, did not allow monitors from Western countries to observe the election, but large delegations from the African Union and the regional trade bloc, S.A.D.C., observed the voting. Both organizations released reports sharply critical of the vote, but ultimately urged the challengers to accept the outcome.
The United States and other Western nations said that the vote did not truly reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people and urged the regional observers to investigate serious allegations of fraud before accepting the result.
But Mr. Mugabe has brushed aside all criticism of the election, especially from Western nations.
“But now they, even as the whole of Africa is sending us messages of congratulations to say ‘well done,’ they say the elections were not free,” Mr. Mugabe said in a news conference in Harare. “And where are they talking? London and Washington and Ottawa.”
Botswana urged a serious investigation of the results, breaking ranks with other African nations in the region. In a statement, Botswana’s observer delegation said that the election fell short of acceptable standards and that the regional trade group “should not create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules.”
Mr. Mwonzora, the M.D.C. spokesman, said that African countries were satisfied that the lack of violence made the election fair, but, he added, that was far too low a standard.
“For other countries, elections need to be peaceful, free and fair,” Mr. Mwonzora said. “But for Zimbabwe, they need only be peaceful to be acceptable. We are refusing to accept that.”
The challengers face an uphill battle in the courts. Zimbabwe’s higher judiciary was largely appointed by Mr. Mugabe and has been loyal to his party.
“We are not deterred by the injustice that we may face,” Mr. Mwonzora said. “We are going to court to create a public record. The same dossier we are presenting to the court we will present to the Zimbabwean public and await their judgement.”