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Zimbabwean elections 'not fair'

Zimbabwe's neighbour Botswana has said disputed elections won by president Robert Mugabe did not meet acceptable standards and has warned southern African nations against violating commitments to democracy by accepting the result.

The Botswana government, breaking ranks with other African observers, said the region "should not create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules" on the conduct of Zimbabwe's voting.

In a statement in Harare, Botswana said its 80 poll observers concluded that conditions for free and fair elections were not met because of widespread irregularities.

Botswana's criticism contrasts with the approval given by other African countries. Tanzania and Kenya applauded the polls, and president Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the chief mediator on Zimbabwe, congratulated Mugabe on his victory.

At the weekend, Zimbabwean church leaders urged worshippers to pray for peace after the elections. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe asked its followers to wait for "dialogue to resolve outstanding issues with self-control and tolerance".

Zimbabwean police had mounted extra roadblocks in the capital, some manned unusually by officers with automatic rifles. Troops were camped in the city centre where water cannon trucks were also stationed.

Mugabe took 62% of the presidential vote compared with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's 34%, according to official results.

Tsvangirai rejected the vote as "a monumental fraud" and said he would challenge the results that also gave Mugabe's party a two-thirds majority in the 210-seat parliament, enabling it to alter aspects of the country's new constitution it opposed when the charter was being rewritten.

In the last elections in 2008, the opposition captured 111 seats to Mugabe's 99. Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of that presidential vote but boycotted a run-off in protest at an onslaught of violence against his supporters.

Regional southern African monitors and observers from the continent-wide African Union have demanded investigations into allegations of inflated voting by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the absence of an estimated 700,000 names of eligible voters from voters' lists.


From Belfast Telegraph