Robert Mugabe promises to 'surrender' if ...


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has promised he will stand down if his party loses in the country’s general elections, as polling booths opened on Wednesday morning.
After 33 years of authoritarian power, the 89-year-old said he would “surrender” if beaten by current coalition partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Both Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai say they expect an outright victory that would avoid the need for another term of power-sharing, but the latter has accused his opponent of corruption and vote-rigging in a desperate bid to keep control of the southern-African country.
Administrative, logistical and funding problems have reportedly hindered the arrangements of the official state election body, but today it said everything was ready for voting which began at 7am (6am BST) at some 9,000 polling stations across Zimbabwe.

Of a population of 13 million – in a country the size of Germany – there at 6.4 million registered voters.
And Mr Mugabe, whose government effectively dissolved today, said he would respect the decision of the people.
He told a press conference in Harare: “If you go into a process and join a competition where there are only two outcomes, win or lose, you can't be both. You either win or lose. If you lose, you must surrender.”
Mr Tsvangirai, however, disputes those claims. He told the BBC: “He [Mugabe] does not believe in the right of the people to choose. He does not believe he can be voted out of office.”

Previous elections in 2002 and 2008 were marred by allegations of vote rigging and political violence, and Mr Tsvangirai’s party warned foreign observers not to take the lack of visible disorder this year to mean there weren’t any problems.
He wrote in an editorial for the domestic News Day paper: “Mugabe... is fixing this election in a more sophisticated fashion than beatings, killings and intimidation.”
Western observer missions have been refused entry to the country to monitor proceedings, though diplomats from a number of embassies have been allowed to visit polling stations.

On Tuesday the US State Department voiced its worries over “the lack of transparency in electoral preparations”. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they were concerned by “the continued partisan behaviour of state security institutions and by the technical and logistical issues hampering the administration of a credible and transparent election”.
And the International Crisis Group, a research organization, said it feared a return to ”a protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence“ if the Zimbabwe poll is inconclusive or disputed.
Voting is scheduled to close at 7pm (6pm GMT), but may be extended into a second day on Thursday, according to officials. The electoral commission has promised it will release final tallies by 5 August.

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