- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe Zimbabwe yesterday declared incumbent President Robert Mugabe the winner of elections that his opponents and much of the Western world say were rigged.
In Washington, President Bush said the United States refuses to accept the results.
"We do not recognize the outcome of the election, because we think it's flawed," he told reporters at the White House.
"We are dealing with our friends to figure out how to deal with this flawed election," Mr. Bush said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called the elections "neither free nor fair" and threatened to impose sanctions on the southern African nation.
"Mr. Mugabe may claim victory but not democratic legitimacy," Mr. Powell said in a statement.
According to official election results, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai lost the election to Mr. Mugabe by almost 400,000 votes.
Mr. Tsvangirai called the election "daylight robbery" and said he would not accept the results.
"It is the biggest electoral fraud I have witnessed in my life," said Mr. Tsvangirai, the candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mr. Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe to independence from Britain, has ruled the nation since 1980. The just-concluded election gives him a new six-year term.
MDC officials and independent observers were absent from more than 40 percent of rural constituencies, many of which ultimately posted huge margins of victory for Mr. Mugabe.
Ballot boxes in many areas were unattended for part of their journey from polling stations to counting stations.
Pro-Mugabe vigilantes attacked opposition supporters throughout the campaign and during the voting.
One local human rights group says it has recorded more than 500,000 incidents of violence against opposition supporters in the last year.
In many urban areas, particularly in the opposition stronghold of Harare, the government cut the number of polling stations before the vote.
At remaining polling stations, thousands waited in line, sometimes overnight, during three days of voting. Many had not yet cast ballots when polls closed Monday night.
"The presidential election result announced today does not reflect the will of the people because of the violence, fraud and rigging which characterized the pre-election and polling periods," said the independent Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee, a network of more than 200 political, civic and human rights groups. "The will of the people has been subverted."
Mr. Tsvangirai declined to say how the MDC would contest the election results, saying only that he would "continue to fight for the people of Zimbabwe."
Although a court challenge is likely, Zimbabwe's highest court is stacked with pro-Mugabe judges who have consistently overturned lower court rulings unfavorable to the government.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee says it may call some sort of nationwide strike or protest.
But even hints of mass action against the government are potentially dangerous under Zimbabwe's harsh new security laws, passed earlier this year.
Election observers split, largely along Western and African lines.
The United States, which had four embassy officials detained Monday, and Norway, the European Union's sole remaining observer group, have both called the election unfair.
The Organization of African Unity endorsed the poll as "transparent, credible, free and fair."
South Africa called the elections "legitimate," though they avoided using the term "free and fair" and said they had been unable to independently verify many of the opposition charges of violence and vote fraud.
"The [South African Observer Mission] is heartened by the fact that the opposition … actively participated in the elections themselves, thus legitimizing the outcome of the said elections," it said in a preliminary analysis of the elections.
In the streets of Zimbabwe's capital city, sporadic attempts at protest were quickly squashed by heavy police and military deployment. In at least one case, shots were fired into the air to disperse crowds.


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