U.S. urges Zimbabwe gov't to respect will of people

BUCHAREST Wed Apr 2, 2008 5:52pm BST

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday urged Zimbabwe's government to respect the will of the people, after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe lost control of parliament in last Saturday's elections.

"We continue to monitor the situation and expect the will of the people of Zimbabwe to be respected," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Bucharest, where U.S. President George W. Bush was attending a NATO summit.

The White House issued its new statement after Zimbabwe's opposition also said Mugabe, a stridently anti-U.S. leader and a frequent target of criticism by Bush, had been defeated for the first time in a presidential poll.

Official results, which have trickled out slowly since last Saturday's election, showed that Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF could not outvote the combined opposition seats in parliament.

Mugabe, 84, faced an unprecedented challenge in the elections after being widely blamed for the economic collapse of the once prosperous nation which the former guerrilla leader has ruled since independence from Britain 28 years ago.

The mainstream MDC faction said its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won 50.3 percent of the presidential vote and Mugabe 43.8 percent according to its own tallies of results posted outside polling stations.

No official results have emerged in the presidential election and the government dismissed the opposition claim.

But all the signs are that Mugabe is in the worst trouble of his rule.

The White House on Tuesday had called on Zimbabwe's electoral commission to issue election results, saying "it's clear the people of Zimbabwe have voted for change."

Bush, before leaving on a five-nation Africa tour last month, had assailed Mugabe as a "discredited dictator" and had expressed solidarity with "all in Africa who live in the quiet pain of tyranny."

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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