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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 17:17 GMT
'Climate of fear' in Zimbabwe poll
Zanu-PF supporters
Zanu-PF has been celebrating victory
The Commonwealth observer group in Zimbabwe has strongly condemned the country's presidential election, saying it was held in a climate of fear.


  • Mugabe: 1, 685,212; Tsvangirai: 1,258,401
  • Official turnout: 3,130,913 or 55.9%
  • High turnout in Zanu-PF's rural strongholds


  • The Nigerian chairman of the observer group, former military ruler General Abdusalami Abubakar, said its preliminary conclusion was that there had not been a free expression of will by the electorate.

    The BBC's Mike Wooldridge says the report may preface punitive action by the Commonwealth, which has so far failed to agree on imposing sanctions against the regime of Robert Mugabe, who secured a fifth term in office.

    Speaking in parliament in London, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Mr Mugabe's victory was a "tragedy", but he stopped short of announcing new sanctions against Zimbabwe.

    'Suspicion'

    The Commonwealth observer group's statement echoes the declarations of Western nations and election observers following Wednesday's announcement of the result, but is in sharp contrast to the views of some African nations.


    Robert Mugabe may have claimed to have won these elections but the people of Zimbabwe have lost

    UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
    The group says thousands of Zimbabweans were prevented from voting and a systematic campaign of intimidation against opposition supporters "created a climate of fear and suspicion".

    It also says it was particularly concerned about the activities of paramilitary youth groups.

    Laws used to prevent campaigning by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and the ruling Zanu-PF party's exclusive use of state television to promote its message, are also highlighted.

    South African view

    The report was published as South Africa's Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, went to Zimbabwe for talks with government leaders.

    Election observers from South Africa have said they believed the election outcome was legitimate and the country's ruling party, the African National Congress, has congratulated Mr Mugabe.

    Robert Mugabe
    Mugabe: Yet to claim victory
    However, President Thabo Mbeki has yet to comment on the result.

    Our correspondent says South Africa, whose economy is firmly linked to that of Zimbabwe, is in a key position to influence events.

    He adds that the visit to Zimbabwe by Mr Zuma appears to be part of South Africa's efforts to ensure continuing stability in the region in the wake of the election.

    'Deserved victory'

    Election observers from Nigeria and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) have also said they believe the election to have been largely free and fair.

    And the leaders of Kenya and Tanzania have already praised Mr Mugabe's "deserved victory".

    However, another African body - the parliamentary forum of the Southern African Development Community - said the elections "did not comply with the norms and standards for elections in the SADC".
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    The United States, Britain, and France - along with European election observers - have also described Mr Mugabe's victory as the result of a flawed election.

    UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described it as a "tragedy" for the people of Southern Africa.

    "Robert Mugabe may have claimed to have won these elections but the people of Zimbabwe have lost," Mr Straw told MPs in London.

    The US and Britain are considering imposing sanctions - a move already taken by the European Union in the run-up to the poll - but Mr Straw did not announce new measures.

    New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has said the Commonwealth must take action over Zimbabwe if it is to be taken seriously as an international organisation.



    We are now sitting on a time bomb which is waiting to explode in the form of civil war

    Gwinyayi, Harare
    "If the Commonwealth decides that really there's no problem, I think that does pose considerable problems for the future of the organisation," she added.

    Mr Mugabe's main challenger, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, has described the result as "daylight robbery".

    MDC supporters who took to the streets of Bulawayo, the country's second city, on Thursday to protest about the result were dispersed by police.

    Mr Mugabe himself has yet to appear in public and comment on his re-election.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw
    "There is a widespread condemnation at the way Mugabe stole this election"
    The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
    "Zimbabwe's leader is facing increasing isolation"

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    See also:

    14 Mar 02 | Africa
    14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
    13 Mar 02 | Africa
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