HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s elections received cautious approval today from two African observer missions despite allegations by the main challenger to President Robert Mugabe and a local monitoring group that the vote was heavily rigged.
Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the African Union mission, said his monitors noted some apparent irregularities but that they did not constitute evidence of systematic tampering. Mugabe’s supporters have rejected allegations of rigging and claimed victory. Wednesday’s contentious vote has created fresh uncertainty in a country long afflicted by division and economic turmoil.
“Yes, the election is free,” Obasanjo said. He described the vote as credible unless any evidence to the contrary emerges, and asked election authorities to investigate reports that tens of thousands of eligible voters were turned away. Another poll monitoring group in Zimbabwe said as many as 1 million of the more than 6 million eligible voters were prevented from casting ballots.
“If 25 percent were not allowed, then, yes, the election is fatally flawed,” said Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president. His mission has 70 observers.
The head of the observer mission for the Southern African Development Community, a regional body, described the election as “very free” and “very peaceful,” but noted that there were some violations and a full analysis was still underway.
“The question of fairness is broad and you cannot answer it within one day,” said Bernard Membe, who is also Tanzania’s foreign minister. “And so be sure that within 30 days, through our main report, the question of fairness may come.”
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s main opponent in the presidential vote, has declared the election “null and void.”
Official results announced by the election commission this morning showed Mugabe’s ZANU-PF capturing 54 of the 210 parliament seats and Tsvangirai’s party winning 19 seats so far.
Full results on the presidential and parliament votes have been promised by Monday.