Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Backs Mugabe For Run-off
Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Backs Mugabe For Run-off Website
Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party has given its backing to President Robert Mugabe's participation in a possible run-off vote. The party's top leaders met to decide how to react to election results that have yet to be announced, six days after the presidential poll. The opposition MDC claims its leader received enough votes to win outright. There had been speculation that Mr Mugabe would stand aside rather than face a second poll. Zanu-PF administration secretary Didymus Mutasa said there would be a re-run if the election commission "compels us" We are down but not out," he said after the five-hour meeting. "Absolutely the candidate will be Robert Gabriel Mugabe - who else would it be other than our dear old man?" he said. However, the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) says its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, took 50.3 per cent of the vote, just more than the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off. An independent projection says Mr Tsvangirai gained 49 per cent, just below the threshold, with Mr Mugabe on 42 per cent. If the Electoral Commission decides that no candidate has an outright majority, a run-off is expected within three weeks. Correspondents say there are fears a second round could lead to a resurgence of the violence and intimidation that has been a characteristic of past elections in Zimbabwe. Tensions have been high in the country since Saturday's vote, in which the ruling party lost its majority in parliament for the first time since independence in 1980. On Friday, hundreds of Zanu-PF supporters - some of them veterans from the war against white rule that led to independence - marched through the capital, Harare, the Associated Press news agency reported. They said the MDC's victory claim was "a provocation against us freedom fighters". Jabulani Sibanda, head of the Zimbabwe War Veterans' Association, which has been associated with past election violence, said Zanu-PF lost the elections because "people were pushed by hunger and illegal sanctions". "Under current circumstances the sprit of our people is being provoked. We will be forced to defend our sovereignty," he said. Police said two foreign nationals arrested at a hotel on Thursday had been charged with practising journalism without accreditation. One has been named as Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, Barry Bearak. The other is said to be a British citizen. Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said the authorities were trying to find out whether they were involved in espionage. The MDC said its offices in Harare were ransacked on Thursday. It denied that Mr Tsvangirai had gone into hiding and said he was "safe". The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Johannesburg says the raids mark the start of the campaign for a possible run-off and were intended to have a cooling effect on the opposition and the media. The US-based National Democratic Institute said one of its staff, a US citizen had been detained at Harare's airport as he tried to leave the country in a separate incident on Thursday. Mr Mugabe, 84, came to power 28 years ago at independence on a wave of optimism. But in recent years Zimbabwe has been plagued by the world's highest inflation, as well as acute food and fuel shortages, which correspondents say have driven many voters to back the opposition. Earlier, Mr Mutasa said that Zanu-PF had won the Senate elections, the results of which must be announced before those of the presidential contest. So far, 10 of the 60 Senate results have been announced, with each party on five seats. It had been reported that Friday was the legal deadline for the presidential results to be announced but this has been denied by Zimbabwean constitutional experts. In parliament, the MDC took 99 seats, while the Zanu-PF party won 97. A smaller MDC faction, which backed former Mugabe loyalist Simba Makoni in the presidential election, won 10 seats, leaving them with a potentially influential role. However, Zanu-PF gained 46 per cent of the vote in the parliamentary race, against 43 per cent for the MDC, which supporters of Mr Mugabe say gives him hope of victory in a run-off.