At long last, the matter has been settled! Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 78, will continue to be Zimbabwe's president for the next six years. After one of the most crucial presidential elections in Africa's post independence history, Mugabe romped home with a comprehensive 56.2% victory while his nearest rival, Morgan Tsvangirai got 41.9%. Three minor candidates together received 1.9%.
The final results showed Mugabe well out of sight with 1,685,212 votes to Tsvangirai's 1,258,401. The three minor candidates, W. Kumbula (Zanu Independent) 31,368; S. Maya (NAGG) 11,906; and P. Siwela (ZAPU Independent) 11,871 completed the score. Total votes cast: 2,988,758. Having secured the magic 50%, Mugabe was officially declared the winner, but Tsvangirai rejected the results, saying it had heen "massively rigged. We have been cheated of the right to freely and democratically elect the president of our choice," he added.
Apart from the pre-election "violence and intimidation" (which both sides were guilty of), the MDC said "thousands" of its supporters had been prevented from voting.
As expected, Britain and its allies (now calling themselves "the international community") were quick to denounce Mugabe's victory one full day before the results were even known.
There was a massive turnout of voters (making nonsense of all the pre-election claims of intimidation). And this, coupled with the mayoral and local council elections in two areas (Harare and the township of Chirungwiza), led to long queues in the two affected areas. Even Tsvangirai himself conceded this much on British television.
As a result, voting was frustratingly slow in Harare and Chitungwiza, ending up in several thousands of people unable to vote -- even after an unscheduled third day.
The government had said on the second day that anybody in the queue after the mandatory dosing time of 7pm would be allowed to vote, but confusion reigned when the opposition later went to court to secure a third day of voting.
The government insisted that it was not necessary to have a full-third day all over the country as the go-slow had only affected Harare and Chitungwiza. In the end, the high court turned down the MDC's request for a fourth day of voting.
London was quick on the line. Both Tony Blair and his foreign secretary, Jack Straw, denounced the results even before counting began.
The Norwegian observer team also appeared to jump the gun when (as counting began) it officially pronounced the election...