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AU declares Zim elections free and fair

The head of the mission says the will of the Zimbabwean people has been expressed.

File photo: Olusegun Obasanjo in Dakar. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - The African Union (AU) observer mission monitoring the Zimbabwean elections has declared the process free, fair and credible.

Head of the mission, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, says while there might have been minor problems, the will of the Zimbabwean people has been expressed.

During Wednesday's elections Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai tried to unseat incumbent President Robert Mugabe for the third time.

However on Thursday, Mugabe's ZANU-PF unofficially claimed a landslide victory.

The victory cry came amidst warnings from authorities that they would arrest anyone who released figures before the official results are made public on 5 August.

A senior aid to Mugabe called an international wire service on Thursday claiming the 89-year-old incumbent had beaten Tsvangirai to win an outright election victory extending his 33 year rule.

"We've taken this election. We've buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win," the source told Reuters by phone.

ZANU-PF's announcement was followed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announcing he had conceded defeat.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says it's cautiously waiting for the final outcome of the polls before passing judgment on whether the election process was free and fair.

"Some of the challenges that we have noticed really compromise the credibility of the whole process. But we are also trying to be cautious and wait until the final announcement on the results is made," said ZESN Chairman Solomon Zwana.

MONUMENTAL FRAUD

Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has slammed the election as a monumental fraud.

"It is our view that this election is null and void and does not meet international standards for a credible, legitimate, free and fair election. Once again Zimbabweans have been short-changed."

Tsvangirai said the MDC picked up countless problems in the election process.

He urged his supporters not to give up hope.

"We want to assure every Zimbabwean that this is the beginning of the end. Zanu-PF may have this victory as they would like to claim, but I would like to assure you that the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis has never been so near."

FREE AND FAIR?

Local observers have claimed irregularities systematically disenfranchised thousands of voters in Tsvangirai's urban strongholds and severely compromised the results.

The ZESN said the credibility of the vote was seriously compromised by large numbers of people being turned away from polling stations in MDC strongholds.

Meanwhile, a group of observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) confirmed on Thursday that incorrect papers were discovered in ballot boxes.

The SADC observer team is scheduled to deliver its verdict later on Friday.