Zimbabwe elections prompt international condemnation

June 29th, 2008 - 1:03 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, June 28 (DPA) The international community Saturday condemned Zimbabwe’s controversial election run-off in which President Robert Mugabe sought to extend his 28-year reign amid widespread voter intimidation prompting the opposition to withdraw from the ballot. Echoing calls for more sanctions by the US, the European Union (EU) presidency - currently held by Slovenia - said it was considering measures against those responsible for the “tragic events” in Zimbabwe in the recent months.

On Friday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana had strongly criticised the run-off polls as a sham, saying, “Democracy has not been served by today’s run-off election”.

Zimbabwe’s leadership is already prohibited from entering the EU, and the bloc has also barred assets and blocked arms sales to the country.

The election run-off took place Friday in a climate of fear and harassment, which had caused the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of the race.

The UN Security Council late Friday expressed its “deep regret” over the elections in Zimbabwe.

However, the council - which met behind closed doors - refrained from adopting a British proposal that would have declared the polls illegal.

The motion was blocked by South Africa, which has been reticent to use its power status in Africa to convince the leader of its neighbouring country to stop the killing and violence against his opponents, Western diplomats said.

On Friday, the polls had also been dismissed as “illegitimate” at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the world’s leading economies plus Russia, the Group of Eight (G8), with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling the polls “sham elections”.

Following the polls, the US had said Friday it was considering more restrictions against Mugabe’s regime and the family.

The British Independent newspaper reported that Mugabe’s regime conducted a “secret war” even among the 20,000 Zimbabwean expatriates living in Britain in a bid to intimidate dissidents and block fundraising efforts on behalf of the opposition MDC.

An increased harassment of Zimbabweans in Britain - among them an estimated 4,000 MDC members - was confirmed by British security sources, the paper said.

On Friday, Tsvangirai had called upon his supporters to abstain from the vote and called on the international community not to recognise the outcome.

The MDC leader himself had been arrested repeatedly in the run-up to the polls and ultimately sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare.

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