Zimbabwe opposition to boycott Mugabe government

HARARE (AFP/REUTERS) - Zimbabwe's 89-year-old Robert Mugabe romped to victory in presidential and parliamentary polls on Saturday, but his longtime foe Mr Morgan Tsvangirai vowed to boycott the government formed by the "fraudulent" vote.

The veteran leader scored another five years in office, extending his 33-year rule with a landslide 61 per cent of the vote, against Mr Tsvangirai's 34 per cent.

"We will not engage in institutions of government," said Mr Tsvangirai. "We will not join government."

His party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will challenge in court the election victory by President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party which the MDC rejects as a fraud, he added.

"We are going to go to court, we are going to go to the AU (African Union), we are going to go to the SADC (Southern African Development Community)," Mr Tsvangirai angrily told a news conference in Harare.

The MDC leader, who has been serving as prime minister in a fractious unity government under Mr Mugabe, said his party totally rejected official results from Wednesday's election showing Zanu-PF winning a massive landslide victory and gaining more than two thirds of seats in parliament.

"We did not lose this election. It is in the imagination of Zanu-PF that they won," Mr Tsvangirai said, adding that his party would present evidence in court to back its allegations that the July 31 vote was a "monumental fraud" engineered by Zanu-PF.

"I thought this election was going to resolve this political crisis. It has not. It has plunged the country back to where it was," Mr Tsvangirai said.

The result of the election looks certain to extend 89-year-old Mugabe's 33-year rule in the southern African nation.

Africa's oldest leader, Mr Mugabe has governed the former British colony, previously known as Rhodesia, since independence in 1980. It has rich reserves of chrome, platinum, coal, gold and diamonds.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has until Monday to release the official results of the presidential vote.

Voting on Wednesday passed off peacefully and received broad approval from African observers.

Mr Tsvangirai has already called on the African Union and SADC to investigate the vote, calling it "null and void" and "not credible".

But he faces an uphill struggle to convince the regional bodies, as their observers have already publicly endorsed the election as free and peaceful, while acknowledging minor problems.

Western observers were kept out by Harare, and independent domestic monitors have described the vote as deeply flawed by registration problems that may have disenfranchised up to a million people. This includes the lack of availability of an updated voters' roll, as required by law.

Adding to the controversy surrounding the election, one member of Zimbabwe's nine-member Electoral Commission, Mr Mkhululi Nyathi, has resigned since the vote, citing doubts about the integrity of the results.

Mr Tsvangirai's MDC said on Friday it could take to the streets to challenge Zanu-PF's claim of a landslide victory, made less than 24 hours after the polls had closed on Wednesday.

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