HARARE, Zimbabwe — President Robert Mugabe appeared set to win a mandate to rule Zimbabwe until he’s 94 as his party secured a majority in parliament in elections that African nations endorsed and his main rival called a “farce.”
Results from the electoral commission late yesterday gave Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front 136 of the 210 elected seats in parliament, four shy of a two-thirds majority, compared with 46 for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, and one for an independent.
The tally for the presidential race wasn’t released. Tsvangirai said widespread rigging meant the July 31 elections were “null and void.”
Both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, which sent the biggest international observer teams, endorsed the elections as largely free and fair. The main local monitoring team, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said balloting was “seriously compromised.”
“It’s a classic case of electoral authoritarianism, where elections are used but only to legitimize the regime,” Judy Smith-Hohn, foreign policy analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said Friday by phone from Pretoria.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission member Mkhululi Nyathi quit over the manner in which the elections were conducted, the Harare-based Newsday newspaper reported Saturday, citing his resignation letter. Commission spokesman Shupikai Mashereni declined to comment.
Tsvangirai, 61, made a series of complaints against the election, in which he was bidding to end the 33-year rule of Mugabe, 89. He said thousands of people were turned away from polling stations because they weren’t on the electoral roll, voters were bused to cast ballots outside their home areas and the election process was controlled by the security forces.
He received little backing for his complaints from African countries.
The head of the African Union observer mission, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said incidents during the election didn’t invalidate the vote. “The election is free” and “fairly credible,” he told reporters.
Speaking for SADC, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said that while the vote was “free and peaceful” the regional body hadn’t determined if it was fair. In a separate interview, Membe said, “we are endorsing the elections.”
“The focus was on whether the vote was peaceful, not whether it was a proper election,” said Smith-Hohn. “The credibility of SADC and the AU as neutral observers is seriously called into question” if they back the outcome without grievances of the MDC and others being investigated.
The local monitoring group, which had almost 10 times as many observers as the African Union and SADC, said as many as 1 million voters in the MDC’s urban strongholds were left off the voters roll.
“Before election day the voter registration process was systematically biased against urban voters,” the Zimbabwean monitoring group said in an e-mailed statement on Aug. 1. “A total of 99.97 percent of rural voters were registered versus only 67.94 percent of urban voters.”
The “credibility, legitimacy, free and fair conduct” of the elections and “their reliability as the true expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe have been highly compromised”, a body of non-governmental groups from around SADC, which deployed 150 observers to mainly rural areas said in an Aug. 2 statement.
The MDC’s National Executive Council started a two-day meeting yesterday to review the elections, party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said.
The MDC “has to look at its shortcomings,” Gwinyayi Dzinesa, a senior researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said Friday in phone interview from Harare. “Regardless of the election irregularities, Zanu-PF did its homework.”
The rejection of the vote by Tsvangirai followed a campaign largely free of the violence that marred the last Mugabe- Tsvangirai contest in 2008.
That year, Tsvangirai led the first round of the election before he pulled out of a run-off, saying that about 200 of his supporters had been killed. The MDC beat Zanu-PF in the parliamentary ballot. The 15-nation SADC negotiated a power- sharing agreement in 2009, leaving Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister.
Saviour Kasukuwere, a member of Zanu-PF’s politburo and minister for indigenization, as Mugabe’s program to increase the holdings of black Zimbabweans in the economy is known, called the election “a resounding stamp of approval for our policies” during a telephone interview Aug. 1.
Mugabe and Zanu-PF have forced mining companies such as Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Anglo American Platinum Ltd. to cede a majority share of their local assets to black Zimbabweans or the government.
The southern African nation has the world’s second-biggest platinum and chrome reserves as well as deposits of diamonds, gold and coal. Tsvangirai has promised to repeal the measure.
“We are very happy, smiling, victory is on our side,” Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told reporters Friday in Harare.
Those who lost should “pursue legally established channels to resolve any disputes that may arise relating to the outcome” of the elections, Bethuel Kiplagat, head of the election observer mission from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, told reporters in Harare Saturday
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