Zimbabwe’s political opposition urged the international community to reject the results of Friday’s run-off presidential election in which President Robert Mugabe stood as the sole candidate.
Morgan Tsvangirai, who is Mugabe’s former opponent in the presidential race, along with the United States and the European Union, dismissed the election as “a sham” in comments made to reporters.
“Anyone who recognizes the result of this election is denying the will of the Zimbabwean people and standing in the way of a transition that will deliver stability and prosperity not just to the country, but to the region," Tsvangirai said.
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won the first round of the election in March with 47.9 percent of the vote, compared to Mugabe’s 43.2 percent. In the simultaneous legislative elections, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament for the first time since the nation’s independence from Britain in 1980, though the outcome is being contested in courts.
The MDC has accused Mugabe of influencing voters through a campaign of violence and intimidation. Tsvangirai said there was no point in acts of defiance.
“If possible, we ask you not to vote today. But if you must vote for Mr. Mugabe because of threats to your life, then do so," he wrote in a letter to supporters, according to Agence France Presse.
“If forced to cast your ballot for Mr. Mugabe to avoid personal harm, then again I say do so.”
Allegations from some areas of Zimbabwe claim that officials are inspecting ballots before they are placed in ballot boxes. A senior MDC activist in Nyampada said he had intended to ruin his ballot to invalidate it but was confronted by a ZANU-PF official who demanded to see the voting slip.
"There was no way out. I had to vote for Mugabe,” the activist told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.
Mugabe, who has ruled the country since its independence, cast his own vote in the Harare suburb of Highfields. “I feel very fit and very optimistic," he said to reporters after voting.
At his final rally, Mugabe had said he would be willing to talk to his opposition but negotiations would only begin after he had won his sixth term.
Though Tsvangirai said he was open to negotiations, he added “Who do you negotiate with? Mugabe will be illegitimate.”
The opposition leader said he could not see “any role” in the future for South African President Thabo Mbeki , who had been mediating between the ruling party and the opposition, if Mbeki recognized the victory of his old ally Mugabe.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also called the vote a “sham,” pledging that the United States government would consider how to pressure Mugabe at the U.N. Security Council.