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Mugabe Claims Victory In Zimbabwe Election

June 29, 2008

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has claimed a "sweeping victory" in the country's second round of presidential elections, while critics shun the vote as a sham.

Official results are yet to be published, but in television footage broadcast on June 29, Mugabe said unofficial tallies suggested that he had won all constituencies in the opposition stronghold of the capital, Harare.

Mugabe, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades, was the only candidate after the opposition boycotted the runoff amid reports of violence and intimidation.

He is expected to be sworn in as president before leaving for a summit of African Union leaders that opens in Egypt on June 30.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), pulled out of the June 27 runoff, but his name remained on ballot papers after officials said it was too late for him to withdraw.

An observer team from the Pan-African Parliament today called on the regional grouping SADC and the African Union to facilitate talks between the government and opposition.

Speaking on June 29 at a news conference in Harare, the head of the mission said the vote was neither free no fair.

"Hate speech, incitement of violence, and war rhetoric instilled fear and trepidation among voters," Marwick Khumalo said. "Statements made by esteemed leaders in Zimbabwe make it difficult to dismiss claims of state-sponsored violence, and it is highly regrettable."

Earlier, Nobel-winning South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on African leaders to declare the election illegitimate. He said he would support the deployment of a United Nations force to restore peace in the country.

There has been international outrage at events in Zimbabwe.

U.S. President George Bush has instructed government officials to come up with new sanctions against Zimbabwe, and said Washington would press for strong action by the UN.

In interviews published in British newspapers on June 29, Tsvangirai said he would push for negotiations with Mugabe on a new constitution and fresh elections.

Mugabe finished second to Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.

Since then, the MDC says nearly 90 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to the ruling party, the Zanu-PF. The government blames Tsvangirai's party for the violence.

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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