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Reporter Describes Mugabe’s Tenuous Hold on Power

In the wake of a decisive defeat in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections on Saturday, President Robert Mugabe faces an uncertain future after 28 years in power. Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports on the situation from neighboring South Africa.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, the Zimbabwe election. We have a report from Charlayne Hunter-Gault of National Public Radio. Ray Suarez talked with Charlayne this evening by phone in Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    It's taken days to get any results out of the Zimbabwean election. It's now coming up on Thursday morning in the country. What are the latest firm results, if there are any?

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, NewsHour special correspondent: Well, of course, you probably have heard that the opposition has taken the lower house of parliament. And the opposition itself is claiming that it has taken the presidency, with results of 50.3 percent, which would obviate the need for a runoff.

    But the ruling Zanu-PF party — that's not official, and the ruling party is saying that this is not the case and they have to wait for the results. They will not honor Morgan Tsvangirai's claim of victory at this point.

    But the MDC is holding firm that it has won the presidency and launched Zimbabwe potentially on a new era.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Is part of the delay coming from the fact that they're counting all these votes separately, first the lower house, then the upper house, then the presidency?

  • CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:

    Well, that's what they were saying initially, which sounded plausible, but there are many people, including opposition poll watchers, NGOs and others, who say that these results were known Sunday. They were posted outside of the polling places Sunday, you know, once the election voting was over.

    And so people went around and counted them. And so that's how the MDC has come up with the numbers that it has, and that's how the Zimbabwe — you know, the NGOs, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, has come up with its numbers.

    So it remains to be seen, and there is a lot of speculation as to why this is stalling. In fact, I was talking to one MDC person a few minutes ago who said, "Oh, they're just trying to make time to get all the documents shredded." Well, that's the little bit of humor that exists in this otherwise tense situation.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now, Robert Mugabe has been in charge in Zimbabwe for almost 30 years. Does he have a history of allowing clean elections to be run and respecting the results?

  • CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:

    Well, certainly, in the one since 2000, when he was defeated over a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given him greater powers, the subsequent elections, there were charges of fraud and vote rigging in 2002. There was violence.

    And the observers — international observers, that is — said that the election was fraudulent and unfair. And that was when the commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe over the election.

    And then, in 2005, when there was a parliamentary election, there was also criticism of the results by outside observers. Now, this time, you probably know they limited the observers to friendly countries, and most of them left the country either Saturday night as soon as the voting was over or Sunday saying that it was credible. They didn't say — they didn't use the term "free and fair." They said "credible."

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Has Mugabe himself, or anyone from the Zimbabwean government, spoken on the records about the results of the voting?

  • CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:

    Well, what's so weird is that nobody has seen Mugabe since he voted, and that has led to a lot of speculation about what he might be doing locked inside either the statehouse or his residence.

    Now, there have been many Zanu-PF spokespeople out, you know, disclaiming the statements of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, but no one has seen Robert Mugabe.

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