Zimbabwe election praised by African Union, sidesteps rigging claims

Updated 9:48 AM EDT, Sat August 3, 2013
05:32 - Source: CNN
Mugabe's rival speaks about election

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

(CNN) —  

[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]

Vote-counting in Zimbabwe’s hotly contested election began late Wednesday with President Robert Mugabe and main challenger Morgan Tsvangirai confident of victory.

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.

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 the helm since 1980, the only president the nation has known since it gained independence from Britain. A win would extend his time in office to 38 years.

Who is Robert Mugabe?

The vote will end an uneasy coalition government formed after violence broke out when Mugabe claimed victory over Tsvangirai in the last election five years ago. The post-election violence left 200 people dead and thousands more injured, rights groups said.

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

Q&A: Why Zimbabwe elections matter