Mugabe sworn in after landslide victory

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was sworn in today after being declared the landslide winner of a widely condemned election which African observers said was scarred by violence and intimidation.

Mugabe was the only candidate and went ahead with the vote in defiance of much world opinion, including in Africa.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew a week ago saying a systematic campaign of violence, which killed nearly 90 of his followers, made a free and fair vote impossible.

The electoral commission said Mugabe won 85.51 percent of the vote compared to 43.2 percent in elections in March won by Tsvangirai with 47.9 percent - short of the absolute majority needed for a first round victory.

The commission said turnout was 42.37 percent, almost exactly the same as the March 29 vote.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday urged China and other powers to back strong steps against Mugabe. Beijing, together with South Africa and Russia has consistently blocked United Nations sanctions or other measures.

The electoral commission released the result of Friday's vote in less than 48 hours, compared to five weeks for the March poll.

"I therefore declare Robert Gabriel Mugabe to be the duly elected president of the Republic of Zimbabwe," said chief elections officer Lovemore Sekeramai.

Mugabe, 84 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was quickly sworn in for a new five-year term in a ceremony on the lawns of state house, complete with a military band, marching honour guard and the country's judges in red robes and wigs.

Tsvangirai, who rejected Mugabe's invitation to attend the swearing-in, dismissed it as meaningless.

He said he would ask African Union leaders meeting in Egypt on Monday not to recognise the re-election. Mugabe is due to attend the AU meeting where he says he will confront his African critics.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba said the invitation to Tsvangirai was "done in the spirit of the president's wish to reach out ... It is a major step towards political engagement."

But Tsvangirai told Reuters: "I can't give support to an exercise I'm totally opposed to... the whole world has condemned it, the Zimbabwean people will not give this exercise legitimacy and support."

Monitors and witnesses reported a low turnout in many areas during the election and said some ballots had been spoiled despite a campaign by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to force people to vote in some places.