HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe won an overwhelming victory in Zimbabwe's discredited, violence-wracked runoff election, according to official results released Sunday.
Moments after the results were announced on state TV, a marching band opened inauguration ceremonies for Mugabe at his official residence. Reporters already had been called to the ceremony.
The electoral commission said total results showed more than 2 million votes for Mugabe, and 233,000 for opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Turnout was put at about 42 percent, and 131,000 ballots had been defaced or otherwise spoiled, apparently as an act of protest.
African and other world leaders have condemned the election, in which Mugabe was the only candidate. Human rights groups said opposition supporters were the targets of brutal state-sponsored violence during the campaign, leaving more than 80 dead and forcing some 200,000 to flee their homes.
Tsvangirai withdrew from the race because of the violence, though his name remained on the ballot and his supporters may have spoiled their ballots rather than vote for Mugabe.
Residents said they were forced to vote Friday by threats of violence or arson from Mugabe supporters who searched for anyone without an ink-stained finger — the telltale sign that they had cast a ballot.
In the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo, official results showed Mugabe got 21,127 votes and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai had 13,291, while 9,166 ballots were spoiled.
A high number of spoiled ballots had been noted earlier Sunday by Marwick Khumalo, a member of parliament from Swaziland who led a team of election observers from across the continent under the auspices of the AU-sponsored Pan-African Parliament.
Khumalo said some ballots were defaced with "unpalatable messages." He refused to elaborate, but left the impression the messages expressed hostility toward Mugabe, who has led the country since independence from Britain in 1980.
Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of presidential voting in March, but not enough for an outright victory. African mediators have in recent days been pushing for Mugabe and Tsvangirai to negotiate a power-sharing agreement.
Mugabe said on the eve of Friday's vote that he was open to talks but pressed ahead with the election, apparently hoping a victory would give him leverage at the negotiating table.
Khumalo, the observer, urged African and regional leaders to "engage the broader political leadership in Zimbabwe into a negotiated transitional settlement."
With the election discredited and attention turning to the possibility of negotiations, the role of Mugabe in any future government could be a sticking point.
Tsvangirai said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph of Britain that Mugabe might be allowed to stay on as ceremonial president of a transitional government, with himself as executive prime minister.
"It's being considered within our structures," the paper quoted Tsvangirai as saying.
Mugabe, 84, was once hailed as a post-independence leader committed to development and reconciliation. But in recent years, he has been accused of ruining Zimbabwe's economy and holding onto power through fraud and intimidation.
The official inflation rate was put at 165,000 percent by the government in February, but independent estimates put the real figure closer to 4 million percent.
Since the first round of elections, shortages of basic goods have worsened, public services have come to virtual standstill, and power and water outages have continued daily.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
This article makes me so mad! I can't believe such corrupt practices are happening in the name of democracy. Tsvangirai won the original election but Mugabe demanded a run-off election so that he and his supporters would have enough time to intimidate, threaten, and kill Tsvangirai's people to the point that Tsvangirai withdrew from the election, leaving Mugabe as the only candidate. What about that is fair, just, and reflective of the people's voice? Nothing. I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, which highlights the political corruption in the Congo (later named Zaire) in the 1960's. I was stirred up thinking of how unfair it all was. It seemed so easy for political forces to wipe out the true representative of the people's desire for change, to put a power-hungry dictator in his place. To think that African politics can still be just as corrupt in 2008 really makes me angry.