THE African Union gave Zimbabwe’s flawed elections a tentative stamp of approval yesterday, as official results showed Robert Mugabe’s party won a crucial two-thirds of parliamentary seats.
The Movement for Democratic Change of Morgan Tsvangirai, Mr Mugabe’s main challenger, said it would refuse to recognise the result.
The AU observer mission head, Olesegun Obasanjo, of Nigeria, told reporters that Wednesday’s election was “fairly” free and fair, although a statement from his team spoke of “grave concerns” over the number of voters turned away.
Mr Obasanjo’s assessment opens the way for the 89-year-old leader to swear himself in as president in the next week or so without the worry of being pushed by his African peers to the negotiating table, as happened after the last disputed elections in 2008.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) said in a preliminary report from its observer mission that the elections were “free and peaceful” – though it stopped short of saying they were fair.
“Whoever is aggrieved should approach the courts,” said mission head Bernard Membe. “In democracy we not only vote, not only campaign, but accept the hard facts, particularly the outcome.”
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said: “We cannot be exhorted by SADC to endorse something that is unfair.”
The opposition says one million were stopped from voting. It is mulling mass protests – though there is little apparent enthusiasm on the streets.
Results from 180 parliamentary constituencies announced on state radio showed that Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF had won 142, retaking many opposition strongholds.
A two-thirds majority will allow the president to change the constitution, which has only just been adopted after years of haggling in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa confirmed the new charter “may need cleaning up”.
Official presidential results are expected by Monday.
“We all know the results of this election. We are just waiting for the excitement and pleasure of hearing it on TV,” the minister added.
Lawyers for Mr Tsvangirai are querying the numbers of voters added to the roll in former MDC constituencies that fell to ZANU-PF. Contrary to SADC guidelines on the holding of elections, the register was only released to the opposition as polling began.
Dumisani Muleya told the Zimbabwe Independent: “We all saw it coming, although some were in denial. Morgan Tsvangirai and his party slept on the job and were led by the nose to the slaughterhouse.”
Yesterday, vendors at Avondale fleamarket huddled round radios listening to results. There were some cheers when ZANU-PF achieved a huge win in eastern Mutare.
Opinion polls showed Mr Mugabe’s popularity had surged on the back of his promises to take over white companies and reports of corruption in the MDC.
But there was disbelief over the scale of ZANU-PF’s win.
“The MDC is losing left, right and centre. The figures are just too big. A smaller margin, 55 per cent, might have been possible, but they’re talking about 75 per cent for ZANU-PF,” said one international rights worker.
“But what do you expect when you have one party in control of the electoral process?”
She said rural voters were too frightened of reprisals to vote MDC: 200 opposition supporters were killed after Mr Mugabe lost the first round in 2008.
A western diplomat said that the results were “incredible”.