(by David Blair, March 31, 2008, Telegraph.co.uk) – President Robert Mugabe has suffered a crushing defeat in Zimbabwe’s election, taking only about 30 per cent of the vote, the opposition has claimed.
Based on unofficial and unconfirmed results, the Movement for Democratic Change said that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was leading the poll with 60 per cent support.
Tendai Biti, the MDC’s secretary-general, claimed an outright victory, adding that his party had also won at least 96 seats in the House of Assembly.
But there has been an unprecedented delay in the announcement of official results.
The outcome of all of Zimbabwe’s previous elections has been known within 36 hours of the close of polls.
Voting in this contest took place on Saturday but so far, the Electoral Commission has only disclosed official results in 24 constituencies of the House of Assembly.
For the first time, Zimbabwe held elections for the presidency, two Houses of Parliament and local councils all on the same day.
George Chiweshe, head of the Electoral Commission, said the administrative burden this move had imposed explained the delay.
But critics believe that Zimbabwe’s regime has a long record of announcing fake election results.
The difficulty with holding four elections on a single day is that the regime cannot announce that Mr Mugabe has won the presidency — and lost the contest for the upper and lower houses of parliament and local councils.
They must either fake the results of all four contests — or none of them.
Officials may be wrestling with this dilemma behind the scenes in Harare.
In the meantime, official results for 24 seats in the lower House have been disclosed.
These confirm the general pattern of Zimbabwean elections, with the MDC winning in the towns and Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party achieving victories in rural areas.
So far, each party has 12 seats and Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, has lost in his own constituency.
Meanwhile, the MDC is compiling unofficial results based on returns posted outside polling stations.
Mr Biti said that the figures showed “beyond doubt” an overwhelming win for Mr Tsvangirai.
The opposition has never claimed victory in any previous election. Mr Biti said this had been a “mistake” which would not be repeated.
If Mr Mugabe fails to achieve 50 per cent of the vote in the presidential poll, Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act specifies that a second round must take place within 21 days. Officials may seize on this option as a way of buying time.
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1. What is the problem with Zimbabwe’s presidential election results?
2. How long has it taken to announce the outcome of all of Zimbabwe’s previous elections?
3. How has the head of the Electoral Commission explained the delay in announcing the winner of the election?
4. What do critics of Mr. Mugabe say about the legitimacy of previous elections?
5. What makes it difficult for Mr. Mugabe to fix this election?
6. What will happen if Mr. Mugabe fails to win 50% of the vote in the presidential election?
BRIEF OVERVIEW of ZIMBABWE:
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For background information on Zimbabwe, go to the CIA World FactBook at cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html