Opposition leaders cry foul as Mugabe's party wins a two-thirds majority

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The Independent Online

Amid accusations of foul play, President Robert Mugabe's ruling party won a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections, giving him enough seats to press ahead with plans to change Zimbabwe's constitution and strengthen his grip on power.

Amid accusations of foul play, President Robert Mugabe's ruling party won a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections, giving him enough seats to press ahead with plans to change Zimbabwe's constitution and strengthen his grip on power.

Final figures released show Zanu-PF had 77 seats, plus the 30 presidential deputies that Mr Mugabe can appoint in the
150-seat parliament. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which won 42 seats, has alleged massive fraud. There was one independent victory. Crucially, President Mugabe now has the two-thirds majority needed to amend Zimbabwe's constitution. The result enables him to install a successor without first calling elections as presently required.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai explained that this would mean the appointment of current Vice-President Joyce Mujuru to the top post. The previous favourite, former parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa's hopes of the presidency were dashed when he failed to win the constituency of KweKwe. Other highlights included the victory of ex-Zanu propaganda chief Jonathan Moyo in his hometown, Tsholotsho.

Mr Tsvangirai said that the results contained "massive discrepancies" and described President Mugabe's victory as "a manipulation". Figures showed, for example, that in the constituency of Mutare South, to the east of the country, which the ruling party won by 4,249 votes, there is a 14,521 gap between actual votes cast and the sum of the official number of votes for Zanu and the MDC. Mr Tsvangirai added that the MDC does not accept the polls were "free and fair" and is in the process of mounting a legal challenge.

Regarding the future of the MDC, Mr Tsvangirai dismissed recent talk of a Ukrainian-style non-violent uprising as unworkable. In present conditions, he argued, any sizeable demonstration would be dealt with "in a brutal way". Nevertheless, he did concede that he wouldn't be surprised at the prospect of people taking to the streets. Talking of a broader strategy the MDC vows "to continue the democratic struggle for legitimacy", in particular aiming for constitutional reform ahead of the 2008 presidential elections. Mr Tsvangirai also accuses Zanu of "huge gerrymandering". He describes the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as "controlled by a Zanu-PF bureaucracy" that includes "soldiers, intelligence agent and Zanu activists".

There have been reports of celebrations for Zanu's victory in the rural areas of the country, but the atmosphere is melancholic in the capital, Harare, where the MDC won all but one of the city's 18 provinces. Speaking at a café, 20-year old Gamu, an IT specialist, said: "Nothing will change. How will I get a job?"

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, criticised the elections as "heavily tilted in the government's favour". She estimated that more than 10 per cent of would-be voters were turned away from polling stations due to irregularities with voter registration rolls.

"The independent press was muzzled, food was used as a weapon to sway hungry voters and millions of Zimbabweans who have been forced by the nation's economic collapse to emigrate were disenfranchised," Dr Rice said on Friday.

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