Zimbabwe election: Robert Mugabe 'stole' vote, says Morgan Tsvangirai

Country plunged into limbo as opposition leader alleges fraud and William Hague voices 'grave concerns' over election

Robert Mugabe's seventh consecutive election victory as President of Zimbabwe has been described as political “theft” by the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and former prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Hopes that the MDC leader would accept defeat and quietly retreat from his long-standing frontline battle with the 89-year-old President evaporated when he announced that his party will no longer work with Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF and described the election as a farce.

In a press conference in Harare, Mr Tsvangirai announced that he would be legally challenging the election results. Election officials declared that Mr Mugabe won 61 per cent of the presidential vote against Mr Tsvangirai's 34 per cent.

In the parliamentary contest, the official results give Zanu-PF 158 seats in the 210-member chamber, handing Mr Mugabe a substantial majority and the authority to alter the country's constitution.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: "I commend the people of Zimbabwe on holding peaceful elections. However, we have grave concerns over the conduct of the election." He warned that reported "irregularities" "call into serious question the credibility of the election", adding: "We will need to examine what has happened and consider further reports from regional and local observer missions."

Refusal by the MDC to co-operate with the new Mugabe government plunges Zimbabwe yet again into constitutional limbo. Although Mr Tsvangirai said he would be appealing to the country's courts to examine the legitimacy of the results, it will be the views of those outside Zimbabwe, including the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that could decide the election.

For Mr Tsvangirai, this is not new territory. The MDC and Mr Mugabe have been working in a coalition, since the last election, in 2008, sparked widespread violence.

Mr Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe was "in mourning" over the subversion of the election. He said: "The fraudulent and stolen election has launched Zimbabwe into a constitutional, political and economic crisis." He said the MDC would produce a dossier of the alleged electoral fraud and he called on Zimbabwe's neighbours in the region's development bloc to look into the evidence.

However, before that process is begun, the country could face a substantial period of unrest if MDC supporters back Mr Tsvangirai's call for a campaign of civil unrest.

Mr Mugabe has in the past never avoided using violence to get his way, but the removal of all support and involvement in Zimbabwe's political processes by the opposition will leave him open to international criticism if he unleashes the full force of his office.

Although the AU mission monitoring the vote, headed by the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, dismissed complaints of fraud and, alongside SADC observers, broadly endorsed the result, the largest group of domestic monitors, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), lent credence to Mr Tsvangirai's claims that the election had been stolen from his party.

The ZESN pointed to problems with voter registration and the inability of a million potential MDC supporters to cast their votes in urban areas mostly opposed to Zanu-PF.

Some internal polling ahead of the election had forecast that the MDC would finally triumph against the alleged manipulation of the Mugabe regime. One poll suggested the MDC was likely to win 61 per cent of the vote. According to the official results, that forecast was out by a substantial margin, with the MDC winning just half that percentage. Although the MDC dossier will be laden with evidence of irregularities, in the past such complaints have been dismissed as signs of colonial influence and foreign pressure.

Incidents and claims of fraud across the country included allegations of names deliberately misspelled and not registered, violence and intimidation at polling stations, ID numbers being wrongly dismissed as false, and constituency alignments with voter names not matching.

If the scale of the alleged fraud is substantiated, with the MDC claiming that 40 per cent of its supporters were excluded on polling day, Zimbabwe's neighbours in southern Africa may decide to exert political force and demand a deadline for Mr Mugabe's presidency to end.

At 89, he may not have the health to enjoy another full term as president, although such forecasts have been made before, only for the President to defy his critics.

The AU monitors are believed to have told the MDC that it should have complained in advance of polling day – and that its anger now was not matched by pre-poll worries.

Figures produced by the ZESN claimed that 97 per cent of rural voters were correctly registered, but only 67 per cent of urban polling data had been correctly gathered and registered. The MDC's strongholds are in Zimbabwe's cities, with Zanu-PF relying heavily on support from rural constituencies.

One indication that Mr Mugabe had anticipated the likely objection from the MDC, and its call for civil unrest, is the appearance of extra police in Harare, with additional police in riot gear near government buildings in the state capital.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world