Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, has extended his 33-year rule – being declared the winner of Wednesday’s presidential election, despite opposition claims of fraud.
Zimbabwe’s election commission announced Mugabe’s victory on Saturday. The commission said Mugabe won a new five-year term with 61 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent for his longtime rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party also won more than a two-thirds majority in parliament, which will allow it to make changes to the constitution. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party, meanwhile, won a much smaller fraction of the 210 parliament seats.
Tsvangirai has denounced the presidential and parliamentary vote as a “huge farce,” vowing to challenge the results in court and calling for new elections. “The MDC totally rejects the 31 July elections on the basis of, A. the process and B. the absence of reformism,” he said.
Tsvangirai told a news conference his party will not participate in the new government.
The MDC’s rejection of the election results has raised fears of a repeat of bloody violence that followed a disputed vote in 2008.
International observers, meanwhile, appear divided over the poll.
The European Union said Saturday it was concerned about “alleged irregularities and reports of incomplete participation” in the poll, as well as “identified weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency.”
The African Union declared the election “free and credible,” but says it wants more information about the reported irregularities. Monitors from the Southern African Development Community said that though the vote was “peaceful,” it was too early to declare it “fair.”
Mugabe opponents say the polling was made fraudulent by alleged voter intimidation and government manipulation of the voter rolls.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which had thousands of vote monitors present, said the election process was compromised because many were blocked from casting ballots.
Amid the allegations, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai to send what he called “clear messages of calm” to their supporters. He said any election disputes much be handled “transparently and fairly.”
The 89-year-old Mugabe and 61-year-old Tsvangirai were the main contestants in the five-candidate presidential race. The elections are expected to end a fragile power-sharing government the two principals were forced to put together in 2009.
That power-sharing deal, spawned by disputes over the 2008 elections, ended the election-related unrest that left 200 of Tsvangirai’s supporters dead. VOA