Zimbabwe election praised by African Union, sidesteps rigging claims

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Story highlights

  • The African Union gives its blessing despite noting shortcomings
  • Problems included voters getting turned away and biased media, they say
  • Opposition leader calls the vote "null and void" after Mugabe's party declares win

[Breaking news alert, 9:47 a.m. ET Saturday]

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has claimed a two-thirds majority in parliament after Wednesday's election, according to results released Saturday by Zimbabwe's electoral commission. Presidential results are to be announced late Saturday.

[Previously published]

The African Union on Friday applauded Zimbabwe for holding peaceful elections, and made no mention of rigging accusations by the main opposition candidate.

However, its observers did note several shortcomings.

Problems included voters getting turned away, late publication of polling stations and media taking sides, the African Union observers said in a statement released Friday.

    Even so, the continent-wide body said, "The Mission observes generally, that from a historical perspective and in comparison to the 2008 elections, Zimbabwe has made an important transition in the conduct of its elections."

    Wednesday's vote pitted President Robert Mugabe against his prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, for a five-year term as president.

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    Mugabe's party declared victory a day later even though the electoral commission has not released official results. The opposition dismissed the vote as a "huge farce."

    On the other hand, Tsvangirai has called the vote "null and void," alleging widespread fraud.

    Mugabe, 89, has been at led Zimbabwe since 1980, the first seven years as prime minister. He is the only ruler the nation has known since it gained independence.

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    The election marks an end to an uneasy coalition government between the two leaders. It was formed after violence marred the last balloting. At least 200 people were killed and thousands were injured in post-election violence in 2008.

    The election commission has until Monday to announce the official results.

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