As Mugabe Wins, Critics Cry Foul | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.03.2002
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As Mugabe Wins, Critics Cry Foul

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has won bitterly contested elections, and European and African election observers are split over the poll's legitimacy.


Headlines in Zimbabwe scream that Mugabe won the most votes, but he may not have won the most hearts with his brutal electioneering

More than half of the electorate in Zimbabwe voted for President Robert Mugabe. At least that's the official election result, published on Wednesday morning.

But Mugabe's defeated opponent, former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, accuses the veteran president of rigging the election. He is not alone in saying that the Zimbabwean elections were anything but democratic.

The government and opposition's contrary views showed not just a sharp domestic split but appears to mirror a split on the international level, pitting international observers from Europe against their African counterparts.

European election observers and local independent monitors condemned the conduct of the poll by Mugabe's government. Norwegian election observers said the election did not meet international standards. They say the campaign was marred by violence, most of it from government supporters.

"Campaigning was overshadowed by political violence," says Kare Vollan, a Norwegian election observer. "Although there were incidents on both sides, in some cases one can see a clear strategy of violence by government forces against the opposition."


President Robert Mugabe

But the South African elecion observer mission called the Mugabe victory legitimate Wednesday.

"The Zimbabwean people, in going out to vote in droves on the polling days, not to mention their perserverancein the long queues and slow voting processes, demonstrated their commitment to expressing their will in determining who should be their president," said the South African observer team's leader, Sam Motsuenyane, in a statement.

"We are hopeful that now that the people of Zimbabwe have spoken, the world will respect their verdict."

Voters harassed

Despite threats of violence, supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had turned out in large numbers to cast their votes. But many were prevented from voting in the capital Harare, considered an opposition stronghold.

The Zimbabwean Election Support Network (ZESN), an umbrella of church and civic groups, said tens of thousands of people in Zimbabwe were kept from casting their ballots.

Tsvangirai said many of his followers were deliberately hindered. "They prevented the people from Harare from voting," Tsvangirai told DW-RADIO.

The opposition candidate added that the people of Zimbabwe would not accept the election as legitimate. But he said what was needed now was "a political solution, not legal action."

Mugabe rejects criticism

Mounting European and American criticism of the elections appears so far to have made little impression on either the incumbent president or his government.

Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo described the vote as "exemplary" and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said citizens had voted "freely and fairly and in a peaceful manner."

Wahlen in Simbabwe

Zimbabwean election workers, rear top, wait inside a polling station for the decisio be made to open it or close it down in Harare on Monday as voters who were not able to cast their ballot over the weekend wait in line outside. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) presidential challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, at a press conference, alleged multiple accounts of fraud in the presidential elections in which he is challenging President Robert Mugabe.

In addition to South Africa's appraisal Namibian and Nigerian observers are reportedly leaning toward a conclusion that, though the poll was flawed, the results still reflect the will of the majority of Zimbabweans.

continued on page 2

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