While a senior member of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party claimed it had “buried” its rival MDC in Wednesday's election, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai called the vote a "huge farce" as official results were awaited.
The main challenger to Zimbabwe's long-time president Robert Mugabe on Thursday declared Wednesday’s presidential election “null and void” because of alleged violations in the voting process.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, said the poll was heavily manipulated and did not meet regional or African election standards.
On Thursday, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the leading domestic monitoring agency, said the credibility of the poll was seriously compromised by large numbers of voters being turned away from polling stations in MDC strongholds.
“It is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful for elections to be credible,” ZESN chairman Solomon Zwana told a news conference. “They must offer all citizens... an equal opportunity to vote.”
ZANU-PF ‘buries’ MDC
On Thursday, an unnamed senior member of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party claimed a landslide victory for President Robert Mugabe.
Releasing unofficial results early in Zimbabwe is illegal, and the authorities have said they would arrest anybody who made premature claims about the result.
But the source in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that the outcome was already clear: “We’ve taken this election. We’ve buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win.”
An independent election monitor in Zimbabwe, who also could not be named for fear of arrest, said early results were looking like a “disaster” for Tsvangirai, who was making his third bid to unseat the 89-year-old Mugabe.
Responding to the ZANU-PF claim, a high-ranking source in Tsvangirai’s MDC party, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the election was “a monumental fraud” before adding, “Zimbabweans have been taken for a ride by ZANU-PF and Mugabe. We do not accept it."
Morgan Tsvangirai himself told a news conference at MDC headquarters on Thursday afternoon that the elections were a “huge farce," and "null and void".
AFP reported that riot police had been deployed around MDC headquarters.
‘Free but not fair’
Wednesday’s voting was peaceful across the southern African nation, but the early conflicting claims from the two sides heralded an acrimonious dispute over the outcome and raised fears of a repeat of violence that marred a 2008 election.
Riot police took up positions outside the party’s headquarters in central Harare and other key locations in the capital. MDC offices appeared to be almost deserted.
The head of an African Union observer mission said late on Wednesday the polls appeared at first glance to be “peaceful, orderly and free and fair” - an assessment at odds with the view of the MDC and of independent entities monitoring the poll.
FRANCE 24 correspondent Ayesha Ismail, reporting from Harare, said MDC officials she had spoken to described the vote as “a shambles”.
“They are saying that the process was fundamentally flawed from the beginning,” she said. “They say they have evidence of thousands of dead people whose names still appear on the voters’ roll, while the names of many people who did register did not appear on the list.
“The MDC is crying foul, saying that while the election may have been free, it was certainly not fair.”
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-08-01