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The head of the African Union’s election observer team has said that Zimbabwe’s presidential and parliamentary votes this week were “free, honest and credible.”
That verdict contradicts an assessment made on Thursday by Zimbabwe’s biggest domestic monitoring group, in which it was claimed voting was “seriously compromised”, particularly in urban areas where support for Morgan Tsvangirai, the bitter rival of President Robert Mugabe, is thought to be stronger.
Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party is already claiming victory in the presidential election, predicting that the 89-year-old leader who is running for a seventh presidential term, will have won at least 70 percent of the vote. A party spokesman said of the parliamentary vote that Zanu-PF would have at least 130 to 140 of the 210 parliamentary seats to be decided.
As for Tsvangirai, he has denounced the election as a “huge farce”. “The credibility of this election has been marred by administrative and legal violations which affected the legitimacy of its outcome,” he said on Thursday.
According to the first official results – leaking unofficial results is illegal in this Zimbabwean election – Mugabe’s Zanu-PF finds itself in the lead, although these results only include seats in rural areas, where Mugabe enjoys considerably more support than his rival Tsvangirai.
The Zimbabwe Election support Network, the country’s biggest domestic election observer group, has said that in urban areas, eight out of 10 polling stations turned away potential voters, with nearly four out of 10 rural stations doing the same. Up to a million people out of the 6.4 registered voters were unable to cast their ballots, it said.
However, Olusegun Obasanjo, who leads the Afruican Union observer mission has said that it could not verify these claims, and that the registrar-general had satisfactorily accounted for any discrepancies in the electoral roll.
Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission has until Monday to declare the final official results.