Zimbabwe spoiled ballots defaced with Mugabe insults

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Its now official. Robert Mugabe has been declared winner of a widely condemned election in which he was the only candidate.

The electoral commission announced at about 4:30 pm that the turnout was 42.37 percent, almost exactly the same as a March 29 election won by Tsvangirai.

But it had said Tsvangirai fell short of the majority needed for a first round victory.

Mugabe got 2 150 269 votes against a mere 233 000 given to Tsvangirai. Only 131 ballots where spoiled. Neither candidate got credit for the spoiled ballots.

This time around the counting and verification process wasn’t “meticulous” as the commission released the result in less than 48 hours, compared to five weeks for the March poll.

“I therefore declare Robert Gabriel Mugabe to be the duly elected president of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” said chief elections officer Lovemore Sekeramai.

Tsvangirai had withdrawn because of the violence, though his name remained on the ballot.

Independent observers had said many of those who did go to the polls voted out of fear, and his supporters may have spoiled their ballots rather than vote for Mugabe.

In Bulawayo, for instance, official results showed Mugabe got 21,127 votes, Tsvangirai 13,291, while 9,166 ballots were spoiled.

Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s second main city and an opposition stronghold.

A high number of spoiled ballots had been noted earlier Sunday by Marwick Khumalo, a member of parliament from Swaziland who led a team of election observers from across the continent under the auspices of the AU-sponsored Pan-African Parliament.

Khumalo said some ballots were defaced with “unpalatable messages.” He refused to elaborate, but left the impression the messages expressed hostility toward Mugabe.

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