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Mugabe in biggest battle after losing parliament

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080403/ts_nm/zimbabwe_election_dc Mugabe in biggest battle after losing parliament By Muchena Zigomo 1 hour, 47 minutes ago HARARE
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080403/ts_nm/zimbabwe_election_dc

      Mugabe in biggest battle after losing parliament

      By Muchena Zigomo 1 hour, 47 minutes ago

      HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe is fighting
      to survive the biggest crisis of his 28-year rule
      after losing control of Zimbabwe's parliament for the
      first time since taking power after independence.

      The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said
      Mugabe had also been defeated in a presidential
      election last Saturday and should concede defeat.

      Mugabe's aides angrily dismissed the MDC claim,
      hinting the opposition could be punished for
      publishing its own tallies despite warnings this would
      be regarded as an attempted coup.

      But a state-owned newspaper and projections by
      Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party conceded that he had
      failed to win a majority for the first time in 28
      years.

      Mugabe, known for his fierce and defiant rhetoric, has
      not been seen in public since voting, despite
      speculation he would make a television address on
      Tuesday night.

      Harare's U.N. ambassador said Mugabe had no intention
      of living outside Zimbabwe.

      Asked by BBC television if he would go to another
      country to spend his retirement, Boniface Chidyausiku
      said:

      "Robert Mugabe is Zimbabwean. Born, bred in Zimbabwe.
      He has lived his life to work for Zimbabwe. Why should
      he choose another country?"

      In final results of the election for parliament's
      lower house, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
      won 99 seats. Mugabe's ZANU-PF won 97 seats and a
      breakaway MDC faction won 10. One independent
      candidate won a seat. The outcome of senate vote will
      be issued next.

      No official results have emerged in the presidential
      vote.

      But all the signs are that Mugabe, a liberation war
      leader still respected in Africa, is in the worst
      trouble of his rule after facing an unprecedented
      challenge in the elections.

      Widely blamed for economic collapse of his once
      prosperous nation, Mugabe has faced growing discontent
      with the world's highest inflation rate of more than
      100,000 percent, a virtually worthless currency and
      severe food and fuel shortages.

      The opposition and international observers said Mugabe
      rigged the last presidential election in 2002. But
      some analysts say discontent over daily hardships is
      too great for him to fix the result this time without
      risking major unrest.

      The mainstream MDC faction said its leader Morgan
      Tsvangirai had won 50.3 percent of the presidential
      vote and Mugabe 43.8 percent according to its own
      tallies.

      CALL FOR PATIENCE

      Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper said ZANU-PF and
      the MDC's Tsvangirai faction had agreed that their
      candidates or chief election agents would be present
      at the start of the presidential vote count once
      results come in from provinces.

      "We therefore would like to urge the nation to remain
      patient as we go through this meticulous verification
      process," the newspaper's Web site quoted Zimbabwe
      Electoral Commission chief elections officer Lovemore
      Sekeramayi as saying.

      Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe's former information minister
      and an independent parliament member, said authorities
      were not coping with defeat and chiefs of security
      forces, who have said they would not accept an
      opposition victory, were anxious.

      "You have generals who unwisely, or rather foolishly,
      told the world that they would only salute one
      candidate, who happened to have lost the election," he
      told reporters.

      MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said Tsvangirai had
      an absolute majority, enough for outright victory, but
      he would accept a second round runoff against Mugabe
      "under protest."

      Analysts said the president was likely to be
      humiliated in a runoff and the parliamentary vote
      defeat would remove some of his power of patronage --
      a plank of his long and iron rule.

      Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said in a
      telephone interview with Sky television : "No one is
      panicking around President Mugabe. The army is very
      solidly behind our president, the police force as
      well."

      Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said the MDC was
      in contempt of the law by announcing results. "You are
      drifting in very dangerous territory and I hope the
      MDC is prepared for the consequences," he said.

      The government appears to have been preparing the
      population for a runoff by revealing its own
      projections showing a second round would be required
      in the statutory three weeks after last Saturday's
      vote.

      Both Tsvangirai and the government have dismissed
      widespread speculation that the MDC was negotiating
      with ZANU-PF for a managed exit for Mugabe, who has
      ruled uninterrupted since independence from Britain in
      1980.

      Mugabe was unlikely to make a negotiated exit but go
      down fighting in the second round, analysts said.

      "He is not the type that quietly walks away into the
      sunset," a senior Western diplomat said in Harare.

      (Additional reporting by Nelson Banya, Cris Chinaka,
      MacDonald Dzirutwe, Stella Mapenzauswa and Cris
      Chinaka, Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Barry
      Moody; Editing by Michael Georgy)

      (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say
      on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com)
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