Mugabe ‘to fight on’ says party amid calls for his exit

April 4th, 2008 - 10:48 am ICT by admin  

Johannesburg/Harare, April 4 (DPA) A Zimbabwean government spokesman has said that embattled President Robert Mugabe would fight tooth and nail to retain the presidency despite his party’s defeat in parliamentary elections and growing calls for him to step down. “President Mugabe is going to fight to the last,” Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told the BBC in an interview Thursday.

Five days after Saturday’s combined presidential, parliamentary and local elections, Zimbabweans are still waiting for results from the crunch presidential vote that could end Mugabe’s 28-year rule.

As tensions mounted, police launched a search for foreign journalists working undercover in the country. Armed police raided one hotel and arrested four journalists, including a US journalist, according to diplomatic sources. The hotel confirmed the raid.

Analysts have predicted a stinging defeat for Mugabe at the hands of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, following his Zanu-PF’s rout in the parliamentary vote.

Several senior MDC officials, including Tsvangirai, were also in hiding after police ransacked a hotel room used by the party.

Mugabe himself made his first public appearance since casting his vote Saturday, appearing relaxed as he was thanked departing African Union observers for monitoring the elections, in a soundless broadcast.

The MDC has already declared its leader Tsvangirai victorious, claiming 50.3 percent of the vote in their own count of the votes.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had said it would issue all results by Friday, though the chairman of the Pan-African Parliament observer mission Marwick Khumalo said Thursday the outcome might not be known before Saturday or “a few more days”.

Results of elections to the 60-seat Senate, which had been expected Thursday, were indefinitely delayed due to “logistical” issues, ZEC said.

Mugabe has been under international pressure to concede defeat, based on the outcome of the parliamentary election.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the results of the House of Assembly vote had shown the Zimbabweans wanted change and urged those in power to accept the outcome of the elections.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for Mugabe to step down “with dignity, gracefully”.

South African President Thabo Mbeki referred to a possible runoff vote between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, saying the MDC leader had indicated in talks that the party would go a second round if needed.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan warned the world was watching Zimbabwe and its leaders, and urged them to respect the constitution and obey its electoral laws.

Government spokesman Bright Matonga said that while the ruling party was defeated in the Assembly vote it won more votes than Tsvangirai’s larger of two MDC factions.

This, Matonga says, points to a second round between Tsvangirai and Mugabe, as called for by the constitution if no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote plus one ballot.

In the event of Mugabe and Tsvangirai facing off in a second round “we won’t be caught napping”, he vowed. “We will win.”

It was unclear to what extent Matonga’s remarks reflected sentiment within the ruling party - which several sources have confirmed as being in talks with the MDC over the election outcome - or indeed Mugabe’s own intentions.

Mugabe himself had previously ruled out a second round, saying that Zimbabwean elections deliver knockouts, not a boxing match.

A clearer picture of Mugabe’s intentions was expected to emerge following a meeting Friday of his Zanu-PF’s politburo.

The MDC has said that Tsvangirai would enter a runoff - but only “under protest”.

Saturday’s elections, which got a qualified thumbs-up from African observers despite the presence of police in polling stations and other irregularities, was seen mainly as a vote on the economic chaos wrought by Mugabe’s policies, which have resulted in six-figure inflation and brought millions to the brink of starvation.

Private media reported Thursday that annual inflation in February had hit 165,000 percent, rendering what used to be the biggest note - 10 million Zimbabwe dollars - practically worthless.

Zimbabwe’s central bank governor responded by introducing a new 50 million dollar note.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |