30 March 2008

Zimbabwe: MDC Announces Lead in Poll

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) seems to have gained an unassailable lead in the harmonized elections which were held yesterday, if results already available are anything to go by.

The lead, which has been confirmed by MDC secretary general, Tendai Biti in the early hours of today at a press conference in Harare, has seen a number of constituencies going to the MDC in Masvingo province, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central. All the constituencies in Masvingo urban, Chivi and all Gutu constituencies have gone to the MDC, according to preliminary results which have been posted at respective polling stations as per requirements of the Electoral Act. Reports indicate that Goromonzi North constituency and Maronderal Council have also gone to the MDC.

Bindura Town Council in Mashonaland Central has also gone to the MDC. The local authority, which has been dominated by Zanu PF since independence, will have all councillors from MDC. In Mashonaland West, Hurungwe Constituency has gone to the MDC, while Chegutu has also voted against Zanu PF. Speaking at the press conference, Biti, who was flanked by MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa and MDC elections director, Ian Makone admitted that the battle for Matabeleland provinces was now between his party and the MDC Mutambara faction.

"The trend in Bulawayo urban is that all high density suburbs have overwhelmingly voted for MDC Tsvangirai while the urban areas have voted for MDC Mutambara and Simba Makoni as their presidential candidate," he said, adding that although Makoni had an upper hand in the presidential elections in parts of Matabeleland constituencies, MDC would ultimately prevail. In some polling stations in Matabeleland, President Mugabe has failed to garner a single vote. Results from a polling station at Stanley Square revealed that the MDC polled more than 340 votes while President Mugabe failed to get even a single vote. Asked to respond on a decree by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the police to arrest those prematurely announcing results, Biti said the results which he was announcing had already been posted on all constituencies hence it was now being regarded as public information. "Can you arrest someone because he is just repeating what has already been confirmed to be public information?" asked Biti. Although ZEC was supposed to start announcing the results as from 9.00pm, nothing has materialized.

No official announcement

President Mugabe has not made any official comment over the preliminary results. Even the heads of various government departments which have been in the forefront to make special election announcements, have disappeared. Biti also told the press conference that MDC had resolved to announce the results as and when they were made available, because it had learnt from previous mistakes where it allowed Zanu PF to 'steal' the election result. "Elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 have taught us that it is possible for one to win balloting but lose on an election. As a party, we have resolved not to allow this election to be stolen," said Biti, adding that the MDC would not resort to courts if Zanu PF tried to steal the poll. "On behalf of the MDC leadership, we want everyone to know that we will not use the same avenue we took during previous elections where we went to court. In this election we will not go to court but we will definitely do something," he said, reiterating that the MDC did not condone violence, but all would be left to the people of Zimbabwe to decide. President Mugabe is seeking a sixth term in office after ruling the country for the past 28 years. The country is currently going through a serious economic crisis which has resulted in the world's highest inflation, which currently stands at more than 105 000 percent. During his campaign, Mugabe vowed that Tsvangirai would never rule the country in his lifetime. He said an MDC win would mean that the country would be handed back to its former colonial masters, Britain. Commanders of the country's defence forces have threatened that they will not salute any leader who did not participate in the country's liberation struggle. On Friday, all the uniformed forces leaders held a press conference where they stressed that they would not allow anarchy in the country after the polls. Meanwhile, reports from Chegutu indicate that there is jubilation and people have invaded the streets, celebrating an MDC victory. Although police have warned against premature celebrations, it is reported that they have not done anything to the thousands of people who are dancing in the streets of the former Zanu PF stronghold. In Chitungwiza, people have already started to celebrate in the streets after getting preliminary results from the polling stations.

Warning

President Mugabe's camp meanwhile said it would treat any announcement by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai that he was now the rightful president as tantamount to a coup.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba meanwhile fired a warning to Tsvangirai, who has twice been charged with treason, against an early victory claim.

"He announces results, declares himself and the MDC winner and then what? Declare himself president of Zimbabwe? It is called a coup d'etat and we all know how coups are handled," Charamba told the Sunday Mail.

The electoral commission also criticised the opposition for jumping the gun.

"The commission notes with concern that some stakeholders have gone on to announce purported results of the poll when in fact the results are being verified and collated," chief elections officer Lovemore Sekeramayi said.

"The official results will be announced to the nation by the commission and it urges the nation to bear with it while it completes the process of collation and verification."

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