Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential runoff vote in 2008 to protest violence against his supporters but said before this year’s election that he was confident that Zimbabweans would vote for change even under the most difficult conditions.
“The shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge this country into a serious crisis,” Tsvangirai said of the balloting Wednesday.
Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said accusations of vote-rigging were false. “We dismiss these allegations with the contempt they deserve, because there was absolutely no way of manipulating the system,” he said.
Thabani Nyoni, a civic activist and senior researcher at the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an alliance of about 70 rights and pro-democracy groups, predicted that protests against election irregularities would occur after official results are confirmed.
The state election commission has promised a full tally of results by Monday. No results have been announced yet.
Voter Matthew Pfuri, a car salesman in Harare, said he was shocked by early results coming from polling stations where, under electoral law, summaries are posted outside when initial vote-counting is complete. Mugabe supporters have asserted that early, unconfirmed results show the president has a decisive lead.
“Maybe it’s a good outcome for Tsvangirai,” Pfuri said. “People now know what they are up against and say this blatant abuse can’t last much longer.”
Mugabe’s party said Thursday that it has withdrawn an unauthorized message on its Twitter feed claiming a resounding victory.
Solomon Zwana, head of the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said that his organization found a “wide range of problems” in the elections and that as many as 1 million out of more than 6 million eligible voters were not on voters’ lists.
— Associated Press