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Zimbabwe opposition leader: I won

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080401/ap_on_re_af/zimbabwe_elections Zimbabwe opposition leader: I won By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 1, 4:48 PM
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2008

      Zimbabwe opposition leader: I won

      By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 1, 4:48
      PM ET

      HARARE, Zimbabwe - The main opposition leader insisted
      Tuesday he has won Zimbabwe's presidential election
      outright and denied persistent reports he was
      negotiating to ease out President Robert Mugabe, who
      has led the country from liberation to ruin.

      In his first public comments since Saturday's
      election, Morgan Tsvangirai said he was waiting for an
      official announcement of the results from the Zimbabwe
      Electoral Commission before he would enter any talks
      with Mugabe.

      A businessman close to the state electoral commission
      and a lawyer close to the opposition said earlier the
      two men's aides were negotiating a graceful exit for
      Mugabe, the country's leader of 28 years. Both sources
      spoke on condition of anonymity because of the
      sensitivity of the issue. Several diplomats said they
      had heard similar reports of secret negotiations but
      could not confirm talks were under way.

      "There are no discussions," Tsvangirai said. "Let's
      wait for ZEC to complete its work, then we can discuss
      the circumstances that will affect the people."

      Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga also denied
      it, telling the British Broadcasting Corp. "There are
      no negotiations whatsoever, because we are waiting for
      the presidential results, so why do we need to hold
      any secret talks?"

      Tensions rose as people stayed away from work to await
      results. A senior police officer, Wayne Bvudzijena,
      went on state radio to say: "Our forces are more than
      ready to deal with perpetrators of violence."

      Paramilitary police have stepped up patrols in Harare
      and Bulawayo, the second-largest city, and several
      roadblocks have been set up at strategic entries to
      the capital. The opposition has most of its support in
      urban centers.

      Tsvangirai said he had won more than the 50 percent
      simple majority needed for victory. Mugabe has made no
      statement about the election.

      The businessman said Mugabe has been told he is far
      behind Tsvangirai in preliminary results and that he
      might have to face a runoff. He said the prospect was
      too humiliating for the 84-year-old Mugabe, and that
      was why the president was considering ceding power in
      this Montana-sized country in southern Africa.

      The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a coalition of
      38 Zimbabwe civil society organizations, said its
      random representative sample of polling stations
      showed Tsvangirai won just over 49 percent of the vote
      and Mugabe 42 percent. Simba Makoni, a former Mugabe
      loyalist, trailed at about 8 percent.

      In Washington, Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the
      National Security Council, said "it's clear the people
      of Zimbabwe have voted for change. It's time for the
      Zimbabwean Electoral Commission to confirm the results
      we have all seen from the local polling stations and
      respected NGOs."

      At his news conference, Tsvangirai spoke as if he
      already had been declared president:

      "For years we have trod a journey of hunger, pain,
      torture and brutality," he said. "Today we face a new
      challenge of governing and rehabilitating our beloved
      country, the challenge of giving birth to a new
      Zimbabwe founded on restoration not retribution, on
      love not war."

      As Zimbabweans wait for the returns, "our country is
      on a precipice, on a cliff edge," said Tsvangirai,
      head of the Movement for Democratic Change.

      The situation remained fragile and could deteriorate
      without a Mugabe resignation.

      Martin Rupiya, a military analyst at South Africa's
      Institute for Strategic Studies and a former
      lieutenant-colonel in the Zimbabwe army, said he had
      heard of the military's involvement in negotiations
      for Mugabe to step down.

      The election result "has compelled the military, the
      hawkish wing and the other moderate, to begin to
      reconsider accommodating the opposition," he said.
      "Because of the nature of the wins they have been
      forced to reassess."

      Political analyst John Makumbe said he had learned
      from military sources that they would respect the
      results of the elections. The day before the
      elections, security chiefs had warned they would not
      serve anybody but Mugabe and would not tolerate an
      opposition victory.

      The electoral commission has released results for 182
      of the 210 parliamentary seats — giving Tsvangirai's
      Movement for Democratic Change 92 seats, including
      five for a breakaway faction, to 90 for Mugabe's
      ruling party. At least six Cabinet ministers have lost
      their seats, according to the official results.

      The commission has offered no results in the
      presidential race.

      Zimbabweans still fear that Mugabe may declare himself
      winner, as he has in previous elections that observers
      said were marked by rigging, violence and

      Should he consider stepping down, he would have to
      weigh the concerns of those who have profited from his
      patronage, a group that includes top military leaders,
      party officials and business people. They receive
      mining concessions, construction contracts and
      preferential licenses to run transport companies and
      other businesses.

      Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament
      observer mission, told South African radio that
      leading members of Mugabe's party were contemplating
      defeat with trepidation.

      "I was talking to some of the bigwigs in the ruling
      party and they also are concerned about the
      possibility of a change of guard," he said. "ZANU-PF
      has actually been institutionalized in the lives of
      Zimbabweans, so it is not easy for anyone within the
      sphere of the ruling party to accept that 'Maybe we
      might be defeated or might have been defeated.'"

      At independence, Mugabe was hailed for his policies of
      racial reconciliation and development that brought
      education and health to millions who had been denied
      those services under colonial rule. Zimbabwe's economy
      thrived on exports of food, minerals and tobacco.

      The unraveling began when Mugabe ordered the
      often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial
      farms, ostensibly to return them to the landless black
      majority. Instead, Mugabe replaced a white elite with
      a black one, giving the farms to relatives, friends
      and cronies who allowed cultivated fields to be taken
      over by weeds.

      Today, a third of the population depends on imported
      food handouts. Another third has fled the country as
      economic and political refugees, and 80 percent is
      jobless. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 years to
      35, and shortages of food, medicine, water,
      electricity and fuel are chronic.

      The economy is in dramatically worse shape than in
      past elections. Former Mugabe loyalist and Finance
      Secretary Simba Makoni, who finished a distant third
      according to the independent projection, drew open
      support from other leaders in the ruling party,
      bringing divisions among the elite into the open.
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