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Mugabe set for another term

Robert Mugabe was expected to be inaugurated on Sunday for a new term as Zimbabwe's president following a one-man election that has led to international condemnation and the US planning new sanctions.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2008 09:13 IST

Robert Mugabe was expected to be inaugurated on Sunday for a new term as Zimbabwe's president following a one-man election that has led to international condemnation and the United States planning new sanctions.

Vote totals from Friday's presidential run-off had been expected to be released on Saturday evening, but were delayed until late Sunday morning, an electoral commission official said.

According to the official, results from some remote rural areas had still to be collated at the central headquarters of the commission.

"We will continue with the tally tomorrow morning (Sunday) and by 10:00 am (0800 GMT), all should be in order," said the official on condition of anonymity.

Mugabe is certain of a landslide victory after opposition leader and first round winner Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted Friday's run-off poll.

While Zimbabwe had to wait five weeks for the results in the first round on March 29, government sources said 84-year-old Mugabe was expected to be inaugurated for his sixth term as president on Sunday before flying off to an African Union summit in Egypt.

It was unclear, however, whether the delay in the announcement of the results would set back the inauguration.

Mugabe, who has led the former British colony since independence in 1980, staged the run-off in defiance of widespread calls to shelve it.

Tsvangirai pulled out of the contest last weekend after nearly 90 supporters of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party were killed in attacks he blames on pro-Mugabe militias.

With Tsvangirai having been detained five times during the campaign, the United Nations and regional governments said the atmosphere precluded the possibility of a free and fair election but Mugabe pushed on regardless.

Amid widespread reports of people being coerced into voting, Tsvangirai told followers to cast their ballots for Mugabe rather than risk their lives.

In some areas, there were allegations officials inspected ballot papers before they were placed in boxes. Those who failed to cast their ballots could be easily identified as each voter had a finger daubed with red ink.

In interviews published Sunday, Tsvangirai said he would push for negotiations with Mugabe on a new constitution and fresh elections, and also kept open the possibility that he could remain as a ceremonial head of state.

Tsvangirai told Britain's Mail on Sunday his MDC would use its parliamentary majority, which it won in elections in March, to force negotiations over a transitional arrangement.

"We must bring the old man to the negotiating table as soon as possible," he was quoted as saying.

"We have the power to control parliament, and that is recognised even by Mugabe's ZANU-PF ... We must force a transitional agreement for a set time-frame and work towards a new constitution for Zimbabwe.

"I am confident we can achieve that if international pressure keeps up."

In a separate interview to the Sunday Telegraph, Tsvangirai said under such a scenario Mugabe could possibly remain as a figurehead president.

"I don't think it's inconceivable for such an arrangement to include him, depending, of course, on the details of what is being proposed and what are the arrangements."

The run-off ballot has been widely denounced by the West. with US President George W. Bush announcing Saturday he had directed sanctions be drawn up against Mugabe's regime given its "blatant disregard for the Zimbabwean people's democratic will and human rights."

The United States and European Union imposed sanctions, including a travel ban and a freeze on bank accounts, against Mugabe's inner circle after he allegedly rigged his 2002 re-election -- a move frequently blamed by Africa's oldest leader for the country's economic woes.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said the new move could see sanctions targeting the Zimbabwe government as an entity for the first time.

Despite the build-up of diplomatic pressure, the MDC suffered a blow when South Africa, which has led efforts to mediate between Mugabe and the opposition, blocked a move at the UN to declare the election illegitimate.

The United States and its European allies had pushed for a resolution that would have stated the results "could have no credibility or legitimacy" but the Security Council instead merely issued an statement expressing "deep regret" that the election went ahead.

Viewed in the first years after independence as a post-colonial success story, Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed since thousands of white-owned farms were expropriated at the turn of the decade.

The one-time regional breadbasket now experiences major food shortages while inflation -- officially put at 165,000 percent but in reality many times higher -- is the world's highest.