Zimbabwe’s ruling party won parliamentary elections on Friday but a furious opposition accused President Robert Mugabe of rigging the vote to extend his 25-year grip on power.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF crossed a key threshhold by taking 51 out of the 120 seats being contested—guaranteeing it a simple majority in the 150-seat parliament where 30 additional members are by law Mugabe appointees.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had 33 of the 84 seats declared, its earlier lead demolished by a strong ZANU-PF showing in rural districts.
Britain joined an international chorus condemning the poll, saying the 81-year-old Mugabe had cheated voters and prolonged a crisis which has brought the once-prosperous country to its knees.
Tsvangirai, who has accused Mugabe of using repressive laws, political threats and even access to food supplies to engineer a victory, said the MDC had noted everything from intimidation to thousands of extra votes cast in battleground constituencies.
Britain, Zimbabwe’s former colonial master and frequent critic of Mugabe, joined Western powers including the United States, the European Union, Germany and Australia which have already labeled the poll a travesty.
“Mugabe has yet again denied ordinary Zimbabweans a free and fair opportunity to vote, further prolonging the political and economic crisis he has inflicted on their country,” Foreign Minister Jack Straw said in a statement.