WITHOUT even waiting for full results, Robert Mugabe’s party claimed he had won Zimbabwe’s election yesterday as his main challenger Morgan Tsvangirai dismissed the vote as a “huge farce”.
Lawyers for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader were understood to be preparing papers to try to have the poll nullified in court as early results from polling stations announced on state ZBC radio showed huge wins for the 89-year-old leader and his Zanu-PF party in several wards.
“The shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge the country into crisis,” Mr Tsvangirai said after briefing Western diplomats.
He lost two widely-discredited polls to Mr Mugabe in 2002 and 2008 and had urged his supporters to turn out in huge numbers this time to defeat Zanu-PF’s anticipated rigging plans. Mr Mugabe claimed this week he had “never” cheated in polls.
With no official announcement on a presidential winner, the largest independent observer group said that a million voters had been denied a chance to vote, mostly in MDC strongholds.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network said that the conduct of the polls was “severely compromised.” It said that in 82 per cent of urban polling stations, “many” voters had been turned away.
Earlier, agencies quoted a top Zanu-PF official claiming victory for Mr Mugabe, even though it is illegal for anyone except the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce results.
“We’ve buried the MDC,” the official said.
Psychology Maziwisa, Zanu-PF’s deputy information director, announced on Twitter that Mugabe’s party had won a more than two-thirds majority in parliament at midday.
With riot police stationed outside the party’s city centre headquarters, MDC officials confirmed privately that Mbare township – an MDC stronghold ever since the party first contested elections in 2000 – had fallen to Zanu-PF, as had the eastern Manicaland province.
The MDC had been locked in a coalition government with Zanu-PF since the last violent elections in 2008, when 200 opposition supporters were killed.
Mr Mugabe predicted before the vote that there would be no new coalition government. Education minister David Coltart, who lost his senate seat, said: “In my view the entire election is illegal.”
Disbelieving, many Zimbabweans turned to social networks, including the Facebook page of Baba Jukwa, the popular and anonymous Zanu-PF dissenter, who has made many postings about the party’s internal machinations.
Further allegations of rigging surfaced yesterday – as the ECF-SADC observer mission commended Zimbabwe for a “peaceful, credible and efficient elections process”.
“There’s no ways we’re going to accept this,” said MDC policy adviser Eddie Cross.