World News

Sources say Tsvangirai wins vote

HARARE (Reuters) - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe’s presidential election, winning 47 percent of the vote against the president’s 43 percent, senior government sources said on Wednesday.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai addresses supporters at an election rally south of Harare, March 16, 2008. Tsvangirai beat Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's presidential election, winning 47 percent of the vote against the president's 43 percent, senior government sources said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/Files

One source, declining to be named like the others, told Reuters a run-off would be needed because Tsvangirai did not win enough votes for an outright victory.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said he won the March 29 vote outright and accuses Mugabe -- in power for 28 years -- of delaying results to rig victory.

The standoff over the election has raised fears of widespread bloodshed in a country already battling to cope with economic meltdown.

The MDC said on Wednesday 20 of its members had been killed by pro-government militias in post-election violence and that soldiers had taken part in the attacks. “Only over the past two days five MDC activists have been killed,” it said.

The government has denied waging a violent campaign against the opposition and accuses the MDC of carrying out attacks.

Tsvangirai has said there is no need for a second round because he won outright but has also suggested he could take part if there were international observers led by the U.N..

If Tsvangirai refused to take part in a run-off, Mugabe would be declared the winner, according to election rules.

The MDC leader, who has been touring Africa seeking support, says he is a prime target for Mugabe’s security forces but would return home when conditions were right.

Related Coverage


The state-run Herald newspaper reported police wanted to question MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti for illegally declaring results and were concerned he was “urging and abetting political violence”. Biti is believed to be outside Zimbabwe.

Police have arrested 10 MDC activists on allegations of violence, kidnapping, attempted murder, the Herald reported.

There was no immediate comment from the Electoral Commission or opposition officials on the leaked result. The commission has invited candidates to start verifying the count from Thursday.

A top official in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party said: “Those figures are in line with the official figures and the MDC knows that the official tally is more or less around that but they have been inflating their numbers to claim a false victory.”

Zimbabweans had hoped the election would ease economic turmoil. Instead, severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages are worsening and there are no signs an inflation rate of 165,000 percent -- the world’s highest -- will decrease.

The MDC and human rights groups allege ZANU-PF has embarked on a violent campaign to scare Zimbabweans into voting for Mugabe in a run-off, accusations the government denies.

Earlier, Mugabe’s government dismissed the United Nations’ first session on Zimbabwe’s election crisis as “sinister, racist and colonial” and said it would have no impact on the country.

At the U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday, Western powers pressed for a U.N. mission or envoy to visit Zimbabwe.

“For us, this (U.N. session) is a sign of desperation by the British and their MDC puppets,” Zimbabwe’s Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told Reuters.

European countries, Latin American U.N. members and the United States supported sending an envoy, diplomats said, but South Africa, which currently holds the council presidency, said such a move was not a matter for the council.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has come under attack at home and abroad for his soft approach to Zimbabwe.

Former colonial ruler Britain has been at the forefront of international pressure on Mugabe. It is seeking an arms embargo on Zimbabwe, an investigation into post-election violence, and has called for the election results to be issued immediately.

Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Nelson Banya in Harare and Charles Mangwiro in Malema; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Ralph Gowling