Opposition Claims Fraud In Zimbabwe Election

In Zimbabwe, the opposition is crying foul, alleging vote manipulation by President Robert Mugabe's party. Mugabe, who has ruled the country since independence in 1980, is facing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the race for president.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Zimbabwe, polling stations stayed opened late into the night yesterday to allow for the massive turnout of voters who've been waiting in long lines to cast ballots for a president and parliament. But today, the country's main opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, is claiming intimidation and poll rigging in the election.

PRIME MINISTER MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: Our conclusion is that this has been a huge farce. The credibility of this election has been marred by administrative and legal violations which affected the legitimacy of its outcome.

MONTAGNE: That's the opposition leader, but so far, it's been an election and a vote that's largely peaceful with no repeat of the violence in state intimidation that proved disastrous in the last election. Still, tensions are clearly present in Zimbabwe. For more, we go to NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joining us from the capital, Harare. Good morning.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings from Harare, a Harare that's a little tensed now after this rather tough announcement from Morgan Tsvangirai that he considers that the election has been a farce.

MONTAGNE: That's pretty strong language just a day after the voting. What more is the opposition saying?

QUIST-ARCTON: It's a catalogue of criticism, and it starts - the main problem have been these electoral lists, the voters registration. They say that thousands failed to register and were disenfranchised, and many more who did register were not allowed to vote yesterday. They're also saying manipulation of voters' choice that many voters were forced to plead illiteracy and resort to curiously what's called assistance. They had to be assisted at the polling stations when they didn't need assistance. So they're saying that they were perhaps forced to vote for someone they didn't want to vote for. And also the use of traditional leaders. Chief and headmen in the rural areas used to intimidate voters so that they had to vote for whoever the headman or the chief said. It's so many different reasons. Yesterday, the finance minister, who's also the secretary general of Morgan Tsvangirai's Opposition Movement for Democratic Change, says I know how many security forces we pay here. How come for the special votes, there were so many more security forces than are paid for by the Zimbabwe government. So they're saying that everything has been skewed against the opposition, and they feel that this is a sham election.

MONTAGNE: And, Ofeibea, you said it was tense, but what is the reaction to the opposition coming out basically saying the vote, you know, is a sham?

QUIST-ARCTON: You know, Zimbabweans were out in their thousands, and there was an almost festive mood as people lined up to vote. There were all long lines snaking - they, you know, they're fed up. They've had five years of huge difficulty, of turbulence of this power-sharing government. What they want is their country to move forward. They don't want to hear news about a disputed - another disputed election after the violence and the intimidation in 2008.

MONTAGNE: So when will the results be in and let everyone know exactly who won, who lost, supposedly?

QUIST-ARCTON: Zimbabwe's electoral commission has said and the Constitution says that it should deliver the results of this first round within five days of voting. Now, of course, this is the first round and if no one candidate and it's really a two-horse race between veteran President Robert Mugabe and his prime minister in this power sharing agreement, Morgan Tsvangirai, if no one candidate wins an outright majority in the first round, there's meant to be a runoff in September.

MONTAGNE: Ofeibea, thanks very much. That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking to us from the capital, Harare, Zimbabwe.

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