Zim: Winner in presidential race could be announced today

2013-08-03 09:22

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Zimbabwe could hear today whether President Robert Mugabe’s 33-year rule will be extended by another five years.

If Zanu-PF’s runaway victory in the constituencies are anything to go by, Mugabe is set to remain in State House.

His party clinched more than 75% of the seats by last night in a peaceful election that was given the thumbs-up by two continental observer missions.

With over 180 of the National Assembly seats declared by last night, Zanu-PF already had 142 MPs elected to the 210-seat chamber.

Contrary to earlier reports emanating from the party, MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti retained his seat in Harare East.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has until Monday to announce the country’s new president, but two well-placed sources told City Press they were expecting an announcement today. If there is no challenge, the president is set to be sworn in seven days after the announcement.

A two-thirds majority would give the ruling party the power to change the country’s new Constitution – something Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa hinted at when he addressed a Zanu-PF press conference at the party headquarters in Harare yesterday.

He said there were “small issues” that the drafters of the Constitution could not have anticipated at the time. Zimbabwe’s new Constitution came into place after a referendum in March following four years of an uneasy unity government with Zanu-PF and the MDC-T in the majority.

The new Constitution, among other things, limits the president to two five-year terms in office.

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was quiet yesterday after he appeared to concede defeat in the briefest of press conferences on Thursday.

His party complained about the alleged rigging of the elections on an almost daily basis this week in the run-up to Wednesday’s polls.

His spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, said the party’s leadership is set to meet this afternoon to decide on the way forward and whether they would be challenging the elections results.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer team yesterday declared the elections free and peaceful, but the regional body is yet to decide if the polls were fair.

Head of the team’s observer mission, Bernard Membe, said a final ruling on whether the elections were also fair would be made within 30 days, and will be part of the team’s final report.

Membe said “the election was free. It was very very peaceful but the question of fairness will be addressed in our final report within 30 days”.

The SADC’s report follows that of the African Union (AU) earlier in the day, which had raised grave concerns around the late date at which the voters’ roll was availed to parties, the number of extra ballots printed, the number of people turned away and blatant bias in Zimbabwe’s media. SADC’s concerns reflected those of the AU.

AU observer mission head, former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo, caused some unhappiness among his observers by saying the elections were “free, fair and credible” for now.

“He should have waited for the final report to be released,” a member of the mission told City Press, although he said the elections were successful by Zimbabwean and African standards.

The final report is set to be released in two months’ time with some observers of the 60-member team staying in Zimbabwe to continue their check until later this month.

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