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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Zimbabwe poll unfair, say observers
Pierre Schori
Pierre Schori: No final assessment until after the count
The vote in Zimbabwe's parliamentary election passed off without serious violence, but observers say the election was far from fair.

Zanu-PF leaders seemed to sanction the use of violence and intimidation

Pierre Schori, head of EU observer mission
The head of the European observer mission, Pierre Schori, said the voting itself had been "highly positive", but criticised the ruling Zanu-PF party and its supporters for creating a "climate of fear" during the election campaign.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said it will challenge some of the results in court, on the grounds that voter intimidation gave pro-government candidates an unfair advantage.

"The term 'free and fair' is not applicable in these elections," Mr Schori said at a press conference before the count began.

"The level of violence and intimidation in the pre-election phase makes the term not applicable."

Officials blamed

Mr Schori, a former Swedish government minister, blamed party officials for the pre-election violence in which at least 30 people were killed, most of them supporters of the MDC.

Morgan Tsvangirai at the Harare rally
Morgan Tsvangirai will challenge the result in the constituency where he failed to win a seat
"Zanu-PF leaders seemed to sanction the use of violence and intimidation against political opponents and contributed significantly to the climate of fear so evident during the election campaign," he said.

He said opposition supporters had also been guilty of carrying out some attacks, but that the opposition leadership had given a clear condemnation of violence.

Without the subversion we would have easily won this election - there is no doubt in my mind

Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader
The Zanu-PF campaign manager, Jonathan Moyo, accused the European observers of being "biased" and described their interim report as "garbage".

"With this report they have confirmed that the EU's real mission is actually out to help those trying to overthrow President Mugabe and his party," he said.

The observers will give a final assessment of the election in the coming days.

Legal challenge

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the MDC had identified 20 constituencies won by Zanu-PF where it would either ask for a recount or challenge the results in court.

"Without the subversion we would have easily won this election. There is no doubt in my mind," Mr Tsvangirai said.

MDC legal adviser David Coltart said: "In many of these constituencies, they have only won through intimidation," he said.

Earlier the The MDC said it could only campaign safely in 25 out of 120 constituencies.

Mr Schori said Zimbabwe's official media had also spoiled the election campaign.

He said they were "used as publicity vehicles for Zanu-PF... Opposition parties have had to rely on commercial media only".

The observers' interim report criticised the Zimbabwean authorities for obstructing local independent Zimbabwean monitors as well as the international observers.

"The EU mission reached the conclusion that this was not due to administrative incompetence but due to a deliberate attempt to reduce the effectiveness of independent monitoring," the report said.

Roll incomplete

Mr Schori also drew attention to serious problems with the electoral roll.

Farm-occupiers bang drums
Squatters occupied 1,000 white-owned farms
An estimated 7% of registered voters had been unable to cast their ballots because their names did not appear on official electoral lists.

The observers' report echoed some criticisms made by Zimbabweans themselves, in particular those who were subject to violence and intimidation.

Human rights groups say more than 6,000 villagers fled their homes in rural areas because self-styled war veterans and government supporters attacked them, after accusing them of siding with the opposition.

Punishment threat

Some had their identity papers confiscated or destroyed, to prevent them from voting.

On the 1,000 white-owned farms occupied by war veterans, a labourer found with any opposition election material was liable to be beaten, or worse.

Thousands of farm-workers were forced to attend "re-education camps", where they were made to march up and down, sing the praises of Zanu-PF and condemn the opposition.

There have been threats that areas which voted for the opposition will be "re-visited" by Zanu-PF thugs after the elections.

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