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Mugabe: 'we are heading for a sweeping victory'

Latest update : 2008-06-29

President Robert Mugabe stopped short of announcing he won the one-man election in footage shown on state television. He cited as an encouraging sign his victory in all the 26 constituencies in Harare, known as a stronghold of the opposition.

HARARE, June 28 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's government hopes to
announce the result of a one-candidate presidential election on
Sunday and swear in President Robert Mugabe for a new term,
extending his unbroken 28 years in power.

Electoral officials said late on Saturday the final result
of the widely-condemned vote on Friday had been delayed by the
wait for final tallies from some rural constituencies.

"Tonight we cannot give the results. I don't want to give a
time-frame, but I hope it will be tomorrow," Utoile Silaigwana,
the deputy chief elections officer for the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission, told Reuters.

Earlier, government sources said they expected Mugabe to be
sworn in on Sunday in time to attend an African Union (AU)
summit in Egypt on Monday, where he says he will confront
critics of his decision to go ahead with the vote.
The election was widely condemned around the world after
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew a week ago, saying
almost 90 of his supporters had been killed in government-backed

The government sources said tallies from two-thirds of
polling stations showed Mugabe, 84, defeating Tsvangirai by a
huge margin.

Tsvangirai's name remained on ballot papers after electoral
authorities refused to accept his decision to withdraw last
Sunday. He has taken refuge in the Dutch embassy since then.

"The tallies are indicating that despite the wishes of our
detractors and the propaganda of our enemies, the voter turnout
was very big and that we are going to see a landslide victory,"
said one government source, who declined to be identified.



President George W. Bush called the vote a sham and said
Washington would impose new sanctions on an illegitimate
government. He said he would call on the U.N. to impose an arms
embargo on Zimbabwe and a travel ban on its officials.

The European Union said in a statement that Zimbabweans
could not vote freely and so "the election lost all legitimacy
as well as the administration that has resulted from it".

But foreign ministers preparing for the AU summit indicated
it would not support Western calls for sanctions. African
countries are believed to have more sway with Mugabe than
foreign powers.

Mugabe has presided over once-prosperous Zimbabwe's descent
into economic chaos. Hyper-inflation is estimated to have hit at
least 2 million percent and food and fuel are scarce.

Witnesses and monitors on Friday reported that in many areas
people did not go to the polls.

They added that people in some places had been forced to
vote for the president. Tsvangirai said millions stayed away
from polling stations despite systematic intimidation.

The opposition leader and his Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) won presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29
but fell short of the majority needed for outright victory.

In contrast to the expected declaration of Friday's result
within 48 hours, the outcome of the March 29 presidential poll
took five weeks to emerge. Human rights lawyers say that delay
made Friday's run-off unconstitutional.

Many Western leaders urged the AU to take action, saying
Zimbabwe's turmoil threatened regional security. The MDC said it
would lobby the summit leaders.

"The summit has to take a firm position on the transition we
seek. It's now a matter of peace and security. We hope the
matter gets the urgent attention it deserves. We should not wait
for rivers of blood and the complete breakdown of order," MDC
spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

But ministers attending a meeting to prepare the summit
shied away from proposals for stronger international sanctions
against Mugabe, saying they were unlikely to work and a
power-sharing deal should be encouraged.

AU mediation helped form a power-sharing government in Kenya
earlier this year, ending a crisis in which 1,500 died.

"I think we need to engage Zimbabwe. The route of sanctions
may not be the helpful one," Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses
Wetangula told reporters at the summit venue.

Tsvangirai said earlier this week he would not negotiate
with Mugabe if he went ahead with the election.

The MDC's Chamisa criticised South African President Thabo
Mbeki, whose quiet diplomacy in Zimbabwe as the designated
regional mediator has failed to end the crisis. He is widely
accused of being too soft on Mugabe.

"President Mbeki has become part of the problem ... I don't
know why he is trying to resurrect a regime that was rejected by
the people," Chamisa said.

Gordon Brown, prime minister of former colonial power
Britain, said Zimbabwe had reached a new low. "We will work with
international partners to find a way to close this sickening
chapter that has cost so many lives," he said.

Mugabe blames Western sanctions for economic collapse and
the opposition for political violence.

Date created : 2008-06-29