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Observers back Mugabe party's win
April 4, 2005

A woman shows her ballet paper before voting in Zimbabwe
South African observers said Thursday's ballot was transparent
Southern African observers have endorsed the parliamentary election in Zimbabwe, which was won by President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

The Southern African Development Community said the vote reflected the will of the people, but other monitors said it was neither free nor fair.

The outcome gives Zanu-PF a two-thirds parliamentary majority that enables Mr Mugabe to amend the constitution.

But a local observer group contradicted Sadc saying the poll had serious flaws.

Meanwhile, the opposition has called for fresh elections claiming they were rigged.

The US has led international criticism of Thursday's ballot, but correspondents say President Mugabe will be concerned only with African opinion.


Sadc observers said the poll was "peaceful, transparent, credible and well managed", although they expressed concern at the opposition's lack of access to state-owned media.

Ballot boxes already counted in Zimbabwe
Zanu-PF: 78 seats
MDC: 41 seats
Independent: 1 seat
Elected seats: 120 seats
Seats appointed by the president: 30

Mugabe sweeps to victory
Muted opposition

African Union observers were cautious. Delegation chief Kwadwo Afari-Gyano said the vote was "technically competent and transparent" but noted serious problems with the electoral roll.

With some 6,000 observers, local observer group - The Zimbabwe Election Support Network - said there were huge discrepancies between the number of people who voted and the final vote tallies.

"We urge the [electoral] commission to seriously look into these discrepancies as they have serious implications for the credibility of the electoral process," the group's chairman Reginald Matchaba-Hove said, noting the poll had taken place in a climate of fear.

Many of the observers which were critical of previous elections were not invited back for this poll.

Zanu-PF won 78 of the 120 contested seats and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) picked up 41 seats.

Under Zimbabwean law, Mr Mugabe has the power to appoint another 30 MPs in the 150-seat chamber, giving Zanu-PF a two-thirds majority.

He said in an interview that he many now increase the size of parliament from 150 MPs to more than 200.

Constitutional plans

The MDC has dismissed the poll as a fraud, citing evidence of ballot stuffing and highlighting flaws in the electoral system.

The party is questioning more than a quarter of the results.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai called for a new ballot under a new constitutional framework.

"As long as we run elections under the same set of conditions, there is no way that elections will be free and fair," spokesman William Bango said Sunday.

Mr Tsvangirai's spokesman said the leader would pursue a programme of political alternatives.

He said the party would not mount a legal challenge because it had proved futile in the previous poll - but the MDC had not ruled out mass action and protests.

Zanu-PF has rejected the opposition's accusations of a flawed vote.

"These were the most free and fair elections in the world," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the BBC.

In 2000, Zanu-PF won a majority of seats but fell short of a two-thirds majority which allows the constitution to be changed.

Mr Mugabe has long said he wanted to amend the constitution to establish a second parliamentary chamber.

Critics accuse him of wanting to pack the chamber with his own supporters to extend his influence after he retires.


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