Zanu(PF) wins Zimbabwe poll

April 01, 2005, 19:45

Zimbabwe's ruling party has won parliamentary elections, but a furious opposition accused Robert Mugabe of rigging the vote to extend his 25-year grip on power. Mugabe's Zanu(PF) crossed a key threshhold by taking 51 out of the 120 seats being contested, guaranteeing it a simple majority in the 150-seat parliament where 30 additional members are by law Mugabe

Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had 33 of the 84 seats declared, its earlier lead demolished by a strong Zanu(PF) showing in rural districts.

Britain joined an international chorus condemning the poll, saying the 81-year-old Mugabe had cheated voters and prolonged a crisis, which has brought the once-prosperous country to its knees.

Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, hinted his supporters might take to the streets to express their outrage, saying the party had given up on legal challenges after unsuccessfully battling results in both 2000 and 2002 it claimed were also rigged.

"We believe the people of Zimbabwe must defend their votes, their right to a free and a fair election...this is what has been denied," he told supporters in Harare.

Tsvangirai, who has accused Mugabe of using repressive laws, political threats and even access to food supplies to engineer a victory, said the MDC had noted everything from intimidation to thousands of extra votes cast in battleground constituencies.

Zanu(PF) officials rejected the charges, saying the polls were run by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) set up this year as part of a package of democratic reforms.

"If they say there was fraud, where were their polling agents when it was being done?" Elliott Manyika, the Zanu(PF) elections director, said. Yesterday's voting was peaceful in all the country's 10 provinces, in contrast to Zimbabwe's last two polls which were marked by bloodshed and widespread charges of overt fraud and intimidation against Zanu(PF). -