Officials release 1st result in Zimbabwe election recount

By Angus Shaw

Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — The first results from an election recount under way show President Robert Mugabe’s party has won an additional parliamentary seat, state media reported Wednesday.

Election officials began recounting ballots in 23 districts over the weekend, most of them won by the opposition. The recount could prove pivotal for the ruling party, which lost control of parliament by a handful of seats for the first time ever.

The state-run Herald newspaper also suggested Wednesday that a government of national unity led by Mugabe could end Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crisis — a departure from its regular stance of accusing the opposition of manipulating the vote.


The proposal in a newspaper considered a government mouthpiece comes as the United States’ top diplomat for Africa heads to southern Africa for talks with regional leaders on Zimbabwe’s postelection crisis.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer headed to South Africa on Wednesday and also is to visit Angola and Zambia for talks on Zimbabwe.

No presidential results have been released from the March 29 election, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s party insists it won outright. The Movement for Democratic Change has called the government’s refusal to release the results part of a ploy to steal the vote.

For the first time in Mugabe’s 28-year rule, the opposition defeated his ruling ZANU-PF party in the first count of last month’s parliamentary vote. But electoral officials began recounting ballots Saturday for the 23 legislative seats, most won by opposition candidates. The ZANU-PF party needs just nine seats to reclaim a majority.

The recount in Goromonzi concluded Tuesday with just a one-vote difference from the original count from the poll, giving the seat to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, the Herald said. Officials found no errors in the vote for the upper house, or Senate.

The opposition had demanded the Goromonzi recount. No further results from the recount were released.

In the editorial prominently displayed on the Herald’s opinion page, columnist Dr. Obediah Mazombwe called a unity government negotiated by regional leaders of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community as "the most viable and safest way forward."

He said regional leaders, along with "the progressive international community," could bring together key players: Mugabe’s party, the opposition, former colonial ruler Britain and the United States.


"The situation in Zimbabwe is dire, but all is not lost. Whilst the ruling party must stop behaving like a wounded buffalo, the opposition must stop its hysterics and lapses into delusion," he said.

"The West, particularly the Anglo-American establishment, should stop insisting that President Mugabe and ZANU-PF cannot be part of a future prosperous Zimbabwe," Mazombwe said.

Under a transitional arrangement, the resumption of critical Western financial assistance could be negotiated, Mazombwe said.

Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders, now in "virtual exile," should be guaranteed their safety and "come home and start playing a constructive national role."

A unity government would then be expected to reform the nation’s constitution and organize fresh elections under regional and international supervision, he said.

On March 29, "the government did not rig the elections and, in spite of a ruthlessly battered economy, the opposition did not make a clean sweep," said Mazombwe.

The first view of a prospective unity government aired in the state media was expected to be seen as preparing the ground for Mugabe to stay in control and even pave the way for an effective nullification of the March elections ahead of new polls.

Tsvangirai’s party rejected earlier calls by independent civic groups for an alliance with Mugabe to break the monthlong political deadlock.

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