Leading Mugabe opponent forced into runoff amid vote fraud allegations
President Robert Mugabe / Morgan Tsvangirai
President Robert Mugabe / Morgan Tsvangirai
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.- Results from Zimbabwe’s presidential election, held last Saturday, indicate that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will defeat President Robert Mugabe.  However, according to the ruling party’s projections, Tsvangirai will be forced into a runoff vote, Reuters reports.

Reuters’ sources with the ruling party, ZANU-PF, said Tsvangirai would fall short of the 51 percent necessary for an outright victory. 

According to two senior government sources, Tsvangirai would get only 48.3 percent of the vote, while Mugabe would receive 43 percent.   A third candidate, former finance minister Simba Makoni, would receive eight percent.

A projection by the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZERN) claimed that Tsvangirai will receive 49.4 percent of the vote, compared to Mugabe’s projected 41.8 percent.

A spokesman for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) denied a New York Times report that Mugabe’s advisers were negotiating his resignation with the MDC because the president believed a runoff would be demeaning.

"I can confirm that there are no talks with Mugabe," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

Mugabe has been in power for 28 years.  The country is presently suffering an inflation rate of more than 100,000 percent, food and fuel shortages, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Opposition leaders and international observers accused Mugabe of rigging the last election in 2002.  It is believed that he cannot fix the upcoming election without causing major unrest.

Already some are making allegations of voter fraud. 

"It is now clear that there is something fishy. The whole thing is suspicious and totally unacceptable," Chamisa said.

International Christian agencies have called for immediate government action to stop what observers say appears to be government-led vote fraud.

The Catholic agencies Trócaire and Progressio, the Christian charity Tearfund, and the Swiss-based Foundation for Development and Partnership in Africa have expressed concern about the slow release of election results, according to the Catholic Information Service of Africa (CISA). 

Noel Kutawa, chairperson of ZERN, said the slow reporting is “fuelling speculation that there could be something going on.”

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliamentary Observer Mission, has also expressed his concerns.

The four international Christian agencies reported that officially announced votes in some cases do not match the tallies registered and displayed at polling stations.  Additionally, some election results posted outside polling stations took more than 30 hours to collate and to be announced.

“The delay in announcing results and the failure of the Electoral Commission to satisfactorily explain the delays to the general public is contributing to tensions and could lead to a situation of instability in the country,” the agencies said.

If the Zimbabwe results require a runoff election to be held, it will take place three weeks from last Saturday.

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