Zimbabwe election official resigns

2013-08-03 16:03

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Harare - A Zimbabwean election commissioner has resigned, citing doubts about the integrity of results showing a big win for President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, which was dismissed as a fraud-riddled farce by his main challenger.

Mkhululi Nyathi said he quit the nine-member Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) over the way it managed the presidential and parliamentary vote held on Wednesday.

His resignation is likely to add to the dispute over the election both inside and outside Zimbabwe.

The vote, which looks certain to extend 89-year-old Mugabe's 33-year rule in the southern African nation, passed off peacefully and received broad approval from African observers.

Africa's oldest leader, Mugabe, has governed the former British colony, then known as Rhodesia, since independence in 1980.

Mugabe's main rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has denounced the 31 July election as a "huge farce", alleging massive rigging by Zanu-PF.

Zimbabwe's largest domestic observer group has also called the elections "seriously compromised".

"While throughout the whole process I retained some measure of hope that the integrity of the whole process could be salvaged along the way, this was not to be," Nyathi said in a resignation letter seen by Reuters on Saturday.

Contacted by telephone, Nyathi declined to discuss his concerns in detail.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said on Friday it would take to the streets to challenge Zanu-PF's claim of a landslide victory, made less than 24 hours after the polls had closed on Wednesday.

Results for the parliamentary vote released so far by the ZEC show that Zanu-PF will have a two-thirds majority that would allow it to make constitutional changes.

Zimbabwe state media is also reporting Mugabe is poised for a resounding win.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has until Monday to release the official results of the presidential vote.

Serious flaws alleged

Tsvangirai has called on the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to investigate the vote, calling it "null and void" and "not credible".

But he faces an uphill struggle to convince the regional bodies, as their observers have already endorsed the election as free and peaceful, while acknowledging minor problems.

Western observers were kept out by Harare, and independent domestic monitors have described the vote as deeply flawed by registration problems that may have disenfranchised up to a million people.

This includes the lack of availability of an updated voters' roll, as required by law.

SADC observers have urged Tsvangirai to accept the result. They expressed relief that the elections have so far avoided the kind of violence that marred a disputed vote in 2008. Then, 200 MDC supporters were killed by Zanu-PF supporters.

Western rejection of the regional African verdict on the election could stir tensions with the continent. But acceptance of Mugabe's victory will be criticised in countries that say he is a despot guilty of rights abuses and ruining the economy.

Britain, a sharp critic of Mugabe in the past, said it was concerned that Zimbabwe had not enacted important electoral reforms before the vote.

The US government, which has imposed sanctions against Mugabe, said "a peaceful and orderly election day does not by itself guarantee a free and fair outcome".

The European Union, which relaxed some sanctions earlier this year after a new Zimbabwe constitution was approved in a referendum, has said it is too early to assess the election's fairness and that it is waiting for the definitive results.

Given the sanctions, the view from the West is key to the future of Zimbabwe's economy, which is still struggling with the aftermath of a decade-long slump and hyperinflation that ended in 2009 when the worthless Zimbabwe dollar was scrapped.

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