Mugabe’s party loses majority in zimbabwe Parliament

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President Mugabe's party

President Mugabe’s party loses majority in zimbabwe Parliament

AP/HARARE, Zimbabwe: ZANU-PF, the party of President Robert Mugabe, lost its parliamentary majority, official results showed, bolstering opposition claims that hundreds of thousands of impoverished Zimbabweans voted for change in the (March 29, 2008)weekend elections.

With official results still unreported in the separate presidential race, which was held alongside parliamentary balloting Saturday, Mugabe, who has served 28 interrupted years in power since independence from Britain, may be focused on runoff to try to extend his increasingly autocratic rule. An independent election observer said a governing party official had told her that ZANU-PF would use every weapon in Mugabe’s considerable arsenal to ensure a runoff victory.

The opposition claimed outright victory for its leader, MorganTsvangirai, in the presidential race, but the state-controllednewspaper predicted a runoff. The newspaper report was the firstofficial admission that Mugabe had not won re-election. Mugabe hasbeen silent and has not appeared in public since the vote.

While maintaining there was no need for one, the opposition movement for Democratic Change was confident it could win a runoff with an even larger majority. The Constitution provides for a runoff within three weeks of the elections if no candidate wins more than 50percent plus one vote.

An election observer, Imani Countess of the TransAfrica Forum, based in Washington, told The Associated Press that in a conversation with her, an unnamed senior ZANU-PF official “was very calm andjovial but made it very, very clear that if there was a runoff, that ZANU would use all the state organs at its disposal to ensure victory.”

Countess called the conversation frightening and “very, veryworrisome.” She said the powerful elite that has benefited fromMugabe’s patronage had a vested interest in ensuring he wins.TransAfrica Forum is an independent group promoting African interestsin the United States that has been among Mugabe’s harshest critics.Mugabe has been accused of stealing previous elections by marshalingviolence, fraud and intimidation.

The elections Saturday were different because results were posted outside polling stations for the first time, allowing independent monitors and party agents to make tallies independent of the official electoral commission.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for DemocraticChange, said that was how the opposition arrived at results giving Tsvangirai 50.3 per cent of the vote to 43.8 percent for Mugabe. Simba Makoni, the former ruling party stalwart whose defection brought the internal rift over Mugabe’s leadership into the open, trailed with about 8 per cent.

But the figures Biti gave at a news conference did not back up his contention that Tsvangirai won outright. Biti said 2,382,243 votes were cast with Tsvangirai receiving 1,171,079 – about 49 percent.Contacted soon after the news conference, Biti could not immediately explain the discrepancy. “We maintain that we have won the presidential election outright without the need for a runoff,” Biti said at the news conference. But he added that the opposition would take part if a runoff were ordered – and expected to do even better in a two-way race.

Bright Matonga, the deputy information minister, called the opposition announcement “mischievous.”

The electoral commission announced final results for parliamentary elections, giving the opposition 109 seats to 97 for Mugabe’s party, plus one seat to an independent in the 210-seat Parliament. Eight cabinet ministers have lost their seats, according to official results.

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