Page last updated at 20:40 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 21:40 UK

Robert Mugabe subdued in victory

By Caroline Hawley
BBC News, Johannesburg

Robert Mugabe is sworn in as president
Independent observers say the election has been neither free nor fair

Robert Mugabe's election victory was never in doubt.

After losing the popular vote to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai back in March, he was standing in a one-man race conducted in an atmosphere of fear and foreboding.

According to the opposition, almost 90 of its supporters had been killed in the run-up to the vote, with hundreds more missing - believed dead.

It says 2,000 were jailed, 10,000 injured and 200,000 displaced.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential run-off on 22 June, saying he could not ask supporters to cast ballots "when that vote would cost them their lives".

But his name remained on the ballot. Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans dared to place a cross by his name, knowing that retribution could follow.

A significant number of others spoiled their ballots in protest at being forced to vote.


So there was little surprise when independent observer teams declared that the elections had not been free and fair.

One mission, from the Pan-African parliament, called for a new vote when conditions were "conducive" to a credible poll.

Mr Mugabe has a sweet tongue but sour actions but when all is said and done, there has to be dialogue about a transitional period that would lead to a free and fair election
Nelson Chamisa
MDC spokesman

One of its monitors told the BBC that he had spoken to voters from a squatter camp who had told him they were voting because they had been threatened that their homes would be burned down if they did not.

Robert Mugabe had defied the will of the international community by pressing ahead with the vote.

But, at his inauguration in Harare on Sunday, the hero of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle looked somewhat subdued.

He may have now given himself another - sixth - term in office.

But he knows he is facing growing international opprobrium, stricter sanctions, and even calls for armed peacekeepers to be sent to Zimbabwe.

"I think," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "that a very good argument can be made for having an international force to restore peace."

The Americans have said that this week they will press for UN action against Zimbabwe, including an arms embargo.

"It makes sense to deny the government of Zimbabwe the means to conduct violence against its own people," said the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice.

'Sour actions'

Robert Mugabe, who recently declared that "only God" could remove him from power, seems to realise that he may now be forced - in some fashion - to share power.

Robert Mugabe: 2,150,269
Morgan Tsvangirai: 233,000
Spoiled ballots: 131,481
Voter turnout: 42.37%
Source: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

In a speech late on Sunday, before he flew to the African Union summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, he promised to hold "serious talks" with the opposition.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had declared itself ready for negotiations before - not after - Friday's vote.

But it may have little choice but to talk to the freshly-inaugurated Robert Mugabe.

"Mr Mugabe has a sweet tongue but sour actions," Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the MDC, told the BBC.

"But when all is said and done, there has to be dialogue about a transitional period that would lead to a free and fair election.

"The politicians of this country need to set aside their egos and think of the future of this country. We need to put a full stop on our people's suffering," he said.


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