Secretary Kerry Adds His Voice To Disputed Zimbabwe Vote

Secretary of State John Kerry is weighing in on the Zimbabwe elections, saying the results do not reflect the will of the people. Host Jacki Lyden speaks with NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton from the capital Harare on Kerry's statement, which details several reported problems at the polls. Longtime President Robert Mugabe was named with victor on Saturday.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Coming up, the U.K.'s first ever teenaged lawyer. But first, Secretary of State John Kerry has added his voice to reaction to Wednesday's disputed presidential election in Zimbabwe. Kerry says the results do not reflect the will of the people. President Robert Mugabe was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote and declared the winner just last night. But the opposition is claiming vote fraud and says it will challenge the results in court.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been covering the elections and the fallout, and she joins us on the line from Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Ofeibea, welcome.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.

LYDEN: So Secretary Kerry's statement went into detail about a whole list of irregularities, which have been coming out day-by-day. What kind of activity was reported at the polls that may have skewed the election's outcome?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, of course, it depends who you speak to, Jacki. Local observers and the largest observer group has said that this was not a credible election, that it was seriously compromised. And they note a litany of alleged irregularities right from the composition of the voter's role, which was only published 24 odd hours before the election. They also talk about unequal access to state media as well as many people being turned away from polling stations and others being forced, although they were clearly able to read and write, to be assisted in voting. And, of course, the allegations that this was all in favor of President Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF.

LYDEN: Ofeibea, Western observers were barred from this election, including the U.S. Now, considering the U.S. imposed sanctions on Mugabe's party after the last election five years ago, what was the intent in keeping observers away this time?

QUIST-ARCTON: Jacki, don't look (unintelligible). And many people were hoping that perhaps with a clean election, that would happen. But President Mugabe has said for a long time that the U.S., the former colonial power of Britain and others, it's because of the sanctions they impose that Zimbabwe sunk to an all-time low, a crippled economy. And with that came drought, hunger, people really suffering. So they say, well, why would we invite the people who impose sanctions to monitor our elections? No sense.

LYDEN: Prime Minister Tsvangirai has accused the party of vote fraud. When that happens, what can we expect? Hasn't his party been outmaneuvered?

QUIST-ARCTON: This is what many, many people are saying. Jacki, I have to say, you know, I've covered elections in Zimbabwe before. It is such a muted response, even from President Mugabe's supporters here. It's true, it's a Sunday, but it's so incredibly quiet. Last night when the results were announced, barely anyone in the streets, the normal horns hooting that you hear, nothing like that.

I think Zimbabweans realize that they might have been plunged back into the constitutional, political and economic crisis, as Tsvangirai is saying, that they witnessed five years ago. And with that came real suffering and deprivation. So Zimbabweans were hoping to avoid, at all costs, a disputed election. It's true there hasn't been the violence that we witnessed in 2008, but I think Zimbabweans (unintelligible). They want to know what is now going to happen.

President Mugabe is 89. He looks as if he's back in power. He's outmaneuvered the opposition. But what will that mean for us? Are the politicians going to think about the people and the country or about their political squabbles and disputes?

LYDEN: NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton from Harare. Ofeibea, thank you very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

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