ZIMBABWE: Mugabe loses control of parliament

Thursday, April 3, 2008

ZANU-PF, the party that has held power since Zimbabwe won its independence from Britain in 1980, has lost control of parliament - according to official election results - and its leader, Robert Mugabe, is facing defeat at the presidential polls the opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed on Wednesday.

Late on Wednesday night, with only seven seats left to be announced in constituencies viewed as MDC strongholds, opposition parties had won 106 seats, more than half of the 210 seats available in parliament.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC had 96 seats while Mugbae's ZANU-PF had secured 94. A breakaway faction of the MDC garnered nine seats while ZANU-PF's former minister of information, Jonathan Moyo, who ran as an independent, won his seat.

Three seats were not contested in the 29 March elections after the death of candidates - from natural causes - shortly before the poll. By-elections will be held in these constituencies, which are also viewed as opposition strongholds.

Results of the presidential race have not been officially announced, but at a press briefing in the capital Harare on Wednesday, MDC secretary general Tendai Biti declared Tsvangirai the next president of Zimbabwe, without any need for a second round of voting.

"We maintain that we have won the presidential election outright without the need for a run-off," Biti said. To prevent a second round of voting in the presidential ballot, a candiate requires 50 percent plus one vote to win.

Biti said, according to votes collated from all Zimbabwe's polling stations - which had displayed the results after counting closed - Tsvangirai secured 50.3 percent of the vote, with Mugabe on 43.8 percent.

The MDC's announcement drew an immediate response from ZANU-PF's deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, who told the British Broadcasting Corporation - which is banned from Zimbabwe - "they [the MDC] have got to be very careful with their activities."

Mugabe has not made any public appearance or statement since voting day, although prior to the poll said: "We are not used to boxing matches where one goes from round one to round two. We just knock each other out."

On Wednesday, the official daily newspaper, The Herald, said there would be no clear winner in the presidential race and predicted a second round of voting.

Biti responded: "That is the voice of Mugabe and his handlers trying to prepare the people of Zimbabwe for a rerun. The people have spoken and Morgan Tsvangirai has won the presidential election."

The ZEC chief elections officer, Lovemore Sekeramai, said the results of the presidential ballot would be released soon, once ballots from remote areas had been counted, but provided no specific time.

Anxious days

MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, told IRIN the opposition was surprised by the ZEC claim that results from the provinces was delaying the annoucement of the presidential vote.

"The first ballots which were verified and counted were those of the presidential election. ZEC has been sitting on the results of the presidential election because it is afraid to announce that Mugabe has lost the election," he said.

Zimbabweans, who have weathered an eight year economic recession that has seen inflation rise to an annual rate of more than 100,000 percent, and are experiencing shortages of food, fuel and energy, are now experiencing a shortage of sleep.

"Since Sunday night I have hardly slept as I have sat through the nights in order to get a picture of the electoral outcome," Harare resident Nyasha Mpofu told IRIN.

Journalist Guthrie Munyuki said that his mobile phone had been constantly ringing since Sunday. "A lot of Zimbabweans cannot handle the tension and uncertainty anymore. I have had people from ZANU-PF, MDC, friends, relatives and Zimbabweans in the USA, United Kingdom and other parts of the world phoning to find out what is going on. Where I was able, I gave them updates of the developments."

It is estimated that as many as three million of the about 12 million population have left the country since 2000 in search of employment.

Source: IRIN