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Protesting Mugabe’s victory

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change said today it could take to the streets to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s victory in an election it rejects as a farce and which faces skepticism from the West.

No results of the presidential vote on July 31 have been announced. But Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has already claimed a resounding win and interim tallies of the parliamentary count suggest a massive victory for the 89-year-old, Africa’s oldest president, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.

While the African Union’s monitoring mission chief has called Wednesday’s peaceful polls generally “free and fair” — Western observers were kept out by Harare — domestic monitors have described them as “seriously compromised” by registration flaws that may have disenfranchised up to a million people.

Observers from the Southern African Development Community, a regional grouping, described the elections as “free and peaceful” and called on MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to accept the result.

Tsvangirai, who faces political annihilation in his third attempt to oust Mugabe at the ballot box, has already denounced the election as a “huge farce” marked by polling day irregularities and intimidation by ZANU-PF.

Western rejection of the regional African verdict on the Zimbabwean election could stir tensions with the continent, while acceptance of Mugabe’s victory will be slammed in countries where he is derided as a ruthless despot responsible for rights abuses and trashing the economy.

The mood on the streets of the capital Harare was subdued today as the MDC’s top leadership met at its headquarters to chart their next move, with everything from a legal challenge to street protests on the table.

“Demonstrations and mass action are options,” party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said. (Reuters)

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