The party of longtime Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe claimed victory Thursday in a nationwide election although official votes were still being counted, leading to charges of fraud by opponents.
Official totals are not scheduled to be released until Aug. 5, according to Reuters
, but that didn't stop Mugabe's ZANU-PF party from declaring a win against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party.
"We've taken this election," a source told Reuters in a phone interview. "We've buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win."
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The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, though, told Aljazeera.com
that urban voters, who mainly favor Tsvangirai as president, had been turned away by the thousands at numerous polling stations. In contrast, the network said much smaller numbers were prevented from voting in Mugabe-favored rural areas.
Aljazeera.com quoted Finance Minister Tendai Biti as saying that the names of thousands of eligible voters were missing from the election roll.
The Zimbabwe Election Commission told CNN International
that it believed the election as fair and dismissed charges that the contest was manipulated in Mugabe's favor.
"I believe that the election is free and fair," Rita Makarau, the commission's chairwoman, told CNN. "The reports that will come out will vindicate my view of the election as free and fair."
Mugabe, 89, has been at the nation's helm since 1980 when Zimbabwe won its independence from Britain
. Another victory would extend his time in office to 38 years, according to CNN.
"If you lose, then you must surrender to those who have won," Mugabe told CNN before the election. "If you win, those who have lost then must surrender to those who have won."
Movement for Democratic Change party had complained for days leading up to the election about alleged irregularities in preparations.
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"There is clear evidence of manipulation," Tsvangirai complained. He said ballot papers cast in his favor during early voting were discovered tossed in a bin.
Tsvangirai's party handed voting fraud charges to observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said Aljazeera.com. Makarau told Aljazeera.com, though, that her commission only found "a few minor logistical problems."
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