Skip to comments.Mugabe party ready for run-off to save president
Posted on 04/03/2008 3:51:56 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's ruling party geared up on Thursday for a final battle to keep Robert Mugabe in power, declaring itself ready for a presidential election run-off as police arrested foreign journalists in Harare.
With no official result yet declared five days after the poll, tensions were heightened further by news that a New York Times correspondent and a colleague were held after a raid on a guest house for reporting without accreditation.
South African President Thabo Mbeki meanwhile urged all sides to accept the official results of the election as diplomatic efforts were stepped up.
While the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) maintains its leader Morgan Tsvangirai has surpassed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said it was ready for a run-off in the presidential contest after earlier losing control of parliament.
"ZANU-PF is ready for a run-off, we are ready for a resulting victory," said deputy information minister Bright Matonga who is also a senior lawmaker.
He said the party had "let the president down" in the first round and would re-energise its efforts in the run-off.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior party official told AFP the ZANU-PF's 49-member politburo would meet on Friday "to discuss the election outcome and explore what went wrong."
Despite the extended silence over results from the presidential election, the electoral commission did wrap up results of the parliamentary contest in the early hours, giving the MDC 109 seats against 97 for ZANU-PF.
The situation is slightly complicated by a split in the MDC ranks, with 10 of the newly-elected lawmakers part of a rebel faction.
It also announced the first results from elections to the senate, a largely ceremonial 60-seat chamber, with the MDC and ZANU-PF tied on five seats apiece.
A smiling Mugabe made his first public appearance on Thursday since the polls when he met election observers from the African Union.
Former Sierra Leone president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who headed the AU mission that monitored the polls, said Mugabe appeared "relaxed" during their talks and revealed he had also met Tsvangirai.
In his first reaction to the polls, Mbeki urged all sides to respect the outcome of the official result and said he had held talks on the phone with Tsvangirai.
"If indeed Tsvangirai has been elected that's fine and if there is a run-off that's fine. That is a matter we must await," said Mbeki, who was the chief mediator between the MDC and ZANU-PF in the run-up to the polls.
Despite his party's proclamation of victory, Tsvangirai has refrained from declaring himself president -- a move seen as having helped prevent any major unrest among his followers.
The Zimbabwean authorities refused nearly all applications by the foreign media to cover the polls, warning last week that they would deal severely with any journalists who sneaked into the country.
The raid on the guest house ended with the arrests of two journalists, including award-winning New York Times reporter Barry Bearak.
"They are being investigated for practising without accreditation," national police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told AFP.
The Times' executive editor Bill Keller said: "We do not know where he is being held, or what, if any, charges have been made against him."
"We are making every effort to ascertain his status, to assure that he is safe and being well treated, and to secure his prompt release."
From the headline, I thought the party was going to run off to a Holiday Inn in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This will not end well.
If the opposition shut the country down in protest...who could tell?
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