Tension mounts as Mugabe claims poll win amid opposition protests

This combination of two pictures shows Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (at L) and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (at R). President Robert Mugabe's rivals rubbished his claim to election victory on August 1, branding the vote a "sham" and calling for a campaign of resistance to bring Zimbabwe to a standstill. Photo/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Tsvangirai terms election a huge farce as Zanu-PF leaders insist victory is theirs
  • AU and SADC observers clash with their local counterparts over exercise

Zimbabwean presidential hopeful Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday described Wednesday’s election as a “huge farce”— hours after Robert Mugabe’s allies claimed victory.

The Movement for Democratic Change candidate warned that the country faced a serious crisis.

“It’s a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people. In our view this election is null and void,” Mr Tsvangirai said, pointing to a litany of alleged irregularities in the vote.

“This election has been a huge farce,” he said. “The shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge this country into a serious crisis.”

Mr Mugabe’s allies claimed an “emphatic” victory, but local observers have called the vote “seriously compromised”.

Election day had passed off without widespread violence, but critics pointed at a flawed electoral roll, among other problems.

Mr Mugabe’s critics have accused him of rigging the poll to extend his 33-year-rule. The 89-year-old leader is running for a seventh term as president.

Unofficial results compiled by civil society groups appear to show that he did surprisingly well in urban areas, where he normally falls flat.

Mr Mugabe’s allies claimed his Zanu-PF party was headed for a ‘landslide victory’.

Early indications showed that Mr Tsivangirai performed below expectations.

Although official results were expected to start trickling in late on Thursday, Zanu-PF officials on Thursday claimed ‘resounding victory’ on social networks.

The were backed by their poll monitors who were relying on results being posted outside polling stations as vote counting was continued.

Zanu-PF has since posted a disclaimer on its Twitter feed, saying the results being peddled by its officials were not authorised.

Mr Mugabe has since threatened to arrest anyone who releases the election results without the approval of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The commission said vote counting at polling stations had been completed on Thursday, and results were now being collated, the AFP news agency reports.
It is illegal to publish unofficial election results in Zimbabwe. Police have warned they will take action against anyone trying to leak early results.

Extra police units—some in riot gear—have now been deployed in the capital, Harare.

Legal challenges are now likely to follow, but much will depend on whether Zimbabwe’s neighbours endorse the poll, the BBC’s Andrew Harding in Johannesburg reports.

The unofficial results show Mr Tsvangirai trailing the veteran ruler in some of his urban strongholds.

Mr Tsvangirai was making a third attempt to unseat President Mugabe.

“It’s a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people,” he told journalists in Harare.

Mr Mugabe’s party denied the accusations, saying the voting went smoothly.

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) observers have already declared the polls free and fair in their preliminary reports.

The head of the African Union observer mission, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said his initial assessment was that the vote was free and fair.

But local poll monitors have warned the international community not to be fooled by the relative peace that characterised the voting.

The civil society groups told journalists in Harare Thursday that thousands of opposition supporters were prevented from voting.

“The Zimbabwe Election Support Network as part of its comprehensive effort to observe the 2013 harmonised elections, deployed over 7,000 observers to every province and constituency in the country,” the group said in a statement.

“Regardless of the outcome, the credibility of the elections is seriously compromised by a systematic effort to disenfranchise an estimated one million voters.”

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