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Observers Slam Zimbabwe Presidential Run-Off Election

By Peta Thornycroft
29 June 2008

According to the official Zimbabwe Election Commission, President Robert Mugabe had a landslide victory in the run-off presidential election. But observers from the Pan African Parliament say the election was neither free nor fair and condemned the conduct of the ruling Zanu PF party in the election campaign. Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that Mr. Mugabe was being sworn in for another five-year term, before attending the African Union Summit in Egypt.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has given President Robert Mugabe a massive win in Friday's presidential run off. It said he had nine times more votes than Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mr. Mugabe received only 43 percent of the vote in the March 29 first round. Mr. Tsvangirai had the most votes in that election, but the commission said he did not have enough to avoid a run off.

The opposition leader withdrew from the run-off election last Sunday, but the commission said it did not recognize his withdrawal.

The commission released the result of Friday's vote in less than 48 hours, compared to five weeks for the March poll.

Mr. Mugabe's inauguration ceremony began minutes after the official vote result was announced.

But the Pan African Parliament had 16 teams of observers around the country that issued a three-page report saying the election was neither free nor fair. It condemned pre-election violence and called Zimbabwe's political environment "tense, hostile and volatile", and marred by high levels of "intimidation, violence, displacement of people, abductions, and loss of life. "

Several observers said they were glad to be leaving because they feared for their safety.

Many observers from the Southern African Development Community also said the election was neither free nor fair.

But the group could not agree on a final communique Sunday. Several observers said Angola, which led the observer mission from 14 member states would not allow the majority opinion to prevail. Several of them said it was unfortunate that Angola, with little or no experience in democratic elections, had been put in charge of this difficult observation mission.

The Pan African Parliament group and individual SADC observers said they had seen many incidents of people being forced to vote last Friday. They said they met people who had been threatened with death if they did not vote.

In Harare, many people in high-density suburbs said they voted in fear of retribution if they did not have their little finger stained with semi-permanent ink that showed they had voted.

A farmer from northern Zimbabwe told VOA Sunday that he and his 80 workers had voted with a policeman at their right hand in the polling booth. He said he and his workers had no option but to vote for Mr. Mugabe.

Human-rights groups say opposition supporters in Zimbabwe were the targets of brutal state-sponsored violence during the campaign, leaving more than 80 dead and forcing 200,000 to flee their homes.


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