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Mugabe's party fails to win back parliament in Zimbabwe recount

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-zimbabwe27apr27,1,5799683.story Mugabe s party fails to win back parliament in Zimbabwe recount A senior
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 26, 2008
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      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-zimbabwe27apr27,1,5799683.story

      Mugabe's party fails to win back parliament in
      Zimbabwe recount

      A senior official in the ruling ZANU-PF party says
      many of the president's allies have given up hope of
      keeping power.

      By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
      5:41 PM PDT, April 26, 2008
      JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Zimbabwean President
      Robert Mugabe saw his hold on power weaken Saturday as
      his party failed to make any inroads in a recount of
      parliamentary balloting and some loyalists expressed
      pessimism about his chances in a presidential runoff.

      The Zimbabwe Election Commission announced the results
      of 18 of 23 parliamentary seats whose vote tallies are
      being recounted, nearly a month after bitterly
      disputed elections appeared to give the opposition the
      edge over the 84-year-old president. The ruling
      ZANU-PF party needed to take back nine seats to regain
      control of parliament, but none of the 18 results were
      overturned.

      "It's really a heavy blow," said a senior ZANU-PF
      official and key Mugabe ally who spoke on condition of
      anonymity. "Now that there is no change in the
      recount, I believe that this now gives people second
      thoughts."

      Although some in Mugabe's inner circle appeared
      determined to cling to power at all costs, the senior
      official said many in the party saw no hope of victory
      if a second round of voting was held in the
      presidential election and had given up hope of
      retaining power. Most saw as their best chance a
      government of national unity.

      Official results in the presidential vote might be
      released Monday. Ruling party officials have already
      conceded publicly that opposition leader Morgan
      Tsvangirai garnered more votes than Mugabe in the
      election. The opposition maintains that Tsvangirai won
      outright with no need for a runoff, a position not
      supported by independent electoral monitors.

      Since the March 29 elections, hundreds of opposition
      activists and supporters have been beaten and
      seriously injured. Hundreds more have been arrested.

      "I don't think anything will change the direction of
      the presidential elections. This is what we are seeing
      on the ground," the ZANU-PF official said, adding that
      widespread hunger had made it almost impossible for
      Mugabe to win. "If there's a rerun, whether or not
      there will be violence, I don't think that will give
      us the upper hand, whatever methods we are going to
      use in campaigning."

      But he warned that top military and security officials
      remained deeply skeptical about Tsvangirai, and that
      there was a real threat of a military coup or descent
      into violent civil unrest.

      "The only way to solve the problem without bloodshed
      is that both parties must agree to form a government
      of national unity. In the absence of that . . . rest
      assured there will be serious violence in this
      country. I don't know how things will end," he said.

      The official said wavering support for Zimbabwe in the
      Southern African Development Community, a regional
      body, had also weakened resolve in the ruling party.
      Southern African countries last week refused to allow
      a Chinese ship with a cargo of weapons to unload and
      transport the cargo to Zimbabwe, which is landlocked.

      "The SADC community is now changing, and that is also
      discouraging people," the official said. "People are
      saying, 'Without the support of SADC, how can we fight
      on?' "

      A retired army officer with close ties to the ruling
      party said many ZANU-PF figures believed that the
      campaign of violence against the opposition could not
      save Mugabe and that he would lose more support in a
      presidential runoff.

      "More importantly, the situation with food is getting
      worse and worse," the war veteran said. "The whole
      political atmosphere is uncertain. It is so repressive
      and so terrifying that people believe it cannot be
      sustained for too long."

      Jonathan Moyo, an independent lawmaker who was once
      close to Mugabe, said the failure to win back control
      of parliament had crushed the will of the ruling
      party, but he said it was difficult to predict what
      might come next.

      "They have clearly lost control. What has happened has
      shattered the confidence of the ruling party," he
      said. "The majority of people in ZANU-PF are silent.
      They have gone into hiding. There's a deafening
      silence from the usual noisemakers in ZANU-PF.

      "They're now thinking about the consequences of doing
      and saying things. They are no longer sure that
      ZANU-PF will prevail."

      Moyo said there was now a broad consensus that the
      best outcome was a negotiated transition, with Mugabe
      stepping down.

      Other possibilities were that a presidential runoff
      could be held, or that Tsvangirai could boycott a
      runoff and the authorities would then declare Mugabe
      the winner.

      "And then we would have a political stalemate," Moyo
      said, "because a Mugabe victory will not be accepted
      by anyone."

      robyn.dixon@...
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