Zimbabwe opposition won't declare victory

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai refuses to declare victory: "Any speculation about deals, negotiations is not there because the results have not been announced." (Story: T. Grucza)


Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai declined Tuesday to declare himself the winner of a presidential election, saying he would wait until an announcement from the electoral commission.


"I am prepared to wait until as long as the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) confirms the results," Tsvangirai told a news conference in his first public appearance since Saturday's presidential and parliamentary elections. 


However Tsvangirai said he and his party had been given a clear mandate for change in the poll.


"After the 29th of March, Zimbabwe will never be the same again. In those minutes inside the polling booths each one rewrote the history of Zimbabwe," he said.


"The vote we passed on Saturday was a vote for change, for a new beginning."


Tsvangirai's party has already said it is confident that he won the poll but the electoral commission, whose leadership is appointed by President Robert Mugabe, has yet to release any results from the presidential contest. 




World leaders Tuesday urged Zimbabwe to speed up the release of the country's election results, as the EU voiced hope President Robert Mugabe's 28-year iron-fisted rule may be nearing an end.


Washington and former colonial power, Britain, led the calls for Harare to respect the people's will and publish the results, three days after the African nation's presidential and parliamentary elections.  


"We want to see the presidential vote count be released as soon as possible," US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington.


"Delays in that vote counting and delays in the release of the results are troubling, certainly given all the problems that we noted prior to the election," he added.


So far the commission has announced only partial results from the parliamentary polls, putting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) slightly ahead with 72 seats to Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) on 68.


But despite pressure from foreign governments, there has been no official word on the battle for the presidency between 84-year-old Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.


The opposition MDC is convinced Tsvangirai has beaten Mugabe and results from Saturday's contest for president are being kept back while he cooks up a plan to stay in power.


UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged there to be the "utmost transparency" in the vote-counting "so that the people of Zimbabwe can have full confidence in the process," his office said in a statement.


Mugabe himself has not been seen in public since casting his ballot on Saturday fuelling speculation that he has already fled the country.


And the European Union's Slovenian presidency suggested Mugabe's days in power may be numbered.  


"I hope he is on his way out, most Europeans think this way," Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, told journalists in Brussels.


He warned the veteran leader against clinging on to power. "If Mr. Mugabe continues, it will be a coup d’état," he added.


Although the election process has largely been calm, there are fears that huge delays in announcing the results could spark the kind of violence that marred the aftermath of Kenya's recent contested elections.


"We don't want the situation to develop like in Kenya," Rupel said.


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also said Tuesday that the democratic rights of Zimbabwean voters must be respected as he urged the immediate publication of the results.


"It's absolutely critical that the elections are fair and are seen to be fair and I think the eyes of the world will be on Zimbabwe so that the doubts that people have, the questions that people have, can be answered," Brown said.


Mugabe has been Zimbabwe's leader since independence from Britain in 1980 but his standing overseas has fallen from that of a liberation hero to a despot who led his country to economic ruin.


The elections come as Zimbabwe -- once deemed a model African economy and a regional breadbasket -- grapples with an inflation rate of over 100,000 percent and widespread shortages of basic foodstuffs such as bread and cooking oil.


Zimbabwe's elections commission has urged voters to be patient, saying the count is a meticulous process. 

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier meanwhile on Monday added his voice to concern about alleged pre-election irregularities in Zimbabwe and urged the government to disclose its election results now.


"We are asking the election commission of Zimbabwe to disclose the election results without further delay, respecting the will of its people," Bernier told Canada's House of Commons.

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