First batch of Impartial Zimbabwe poll results …

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Vote counting began Saturday in Zimbabwe’s controversial presidential run-off poll, concluded Friday, in which President Robert Mugabe stood alone after his opponent withdrew in the last minute over campaign violence and intimidation.

Election officials said results would be announced in batches, at constituency level, and the first announcement was expected later Saturday.

The speed in the announcement of the results is in sharp contrast with the first round of the presidential vote in March, when it took more than a month to declare the outcome of the poll, won by Morgan Tsvangirai, who pulled out from Friday’s election.

The second round was marked by voter apathy, and was widely condemned both inside and outside the country for not being freely and fairly conducted.

Tsvangirai pulled out from the race last Sunday, citing pre-election violence and intimidation of his supporters by alleged pro-government militants.

With Mugabe standing alone in the poll, in defiance of regional and international calls for a postponement, most voters stayed away.

The veteran leader, 84, pushed ahead with the election, arguing that it was constitutionally imperative, and that Tsvangirai had pulled out simply to avoid defeat and to soil the country’s electoral process.

Election officials said full results were expected by Monday. Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe uninterrupted for 28 years, was expected to win. Panapress .

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