Robert Mugabe was sworn in Thursday for a fresh five-year term as the president of Zimbabwe in an event attended by about 50,000 people but boycotted by the main opposition party.
0While slamming the “bad losers,” Mugabe also told the crowd at Harare’s main sports stadium that he had respect for his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
0“Our common destiny bids us to work together, never at cross-purposes,” he said.
0Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rejected the results of the July 31 general elections as “null and void,” saying the vote was rigged.
0Western nations also criticized the election process and said the results do not reflect the will of the people although most African nations have recognized Mugabe’s win.
0“Except for a few dishonest Western countries, our elections have been regarded as free, fair and credible,” the 89-year-old Mugabe said. “To those Western countries, … we dismiss them.”
0The MDC launched a court challenge of the results but later withdrew its petition, saying it could not get access to key documents held by state institutions and would, therefore, not receive a fair hearing.
0The Constitutional Court – headed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who also swore in Mugabe – decided to rule on the case anyway and sanctioned the election result this week.
0Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party won more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, according to the election commission, giving the party the ability to change the constitution.
0Mugabe received 61 percent of the vote in the presidential race to Tsvangirai’s 34 percent.
0Mugabe has led the southern African country since 1980, first as prime minister and since 1987 as president. He is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.
0Last month’s elections were a major reversal for Tsvangirai. The 2008 general election was rife with intimidation and violence against the MDC, but the party still managed to secure a majority in Parliament for the first time.
0Tsvangirai also won a majority of the ballots in the first round of the presidential race five years ago, but attacks on his supporters, which left more than 200 people dead, prompted him to pull out of the second round, paving the way for Mugabe to grab the top office.
0Southern African states pushed the two parties into a shaky coalition deal in 2009, which made Tsvangirai prime minister and lasted until the recent election.
0The unity government managed to stop rapid hyperinflation and an economic tailspin by ditching the local currency and adopting the dollar and the South African rand.
0However, the recovery has been weak. Mugabe has pledged to move ahead with his indigenization scheme and target more mining companies and banks.
0The scheme sees the state take a controlling stake in firms, ostensibly to help balance out the economy, which was historically dominated by the white minority.
0“We need a share, a controlling share, in all ventures of our non-renewable natural resources,” Mugabe said after taking the oath of office.
0Indigenization has frightened away much-needed foreign capital.
0Zimbabwe’s economic collapse in the previous decade was exacerbated when the state began to grab white-owned farms without compensation.
0Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the MDC was boycotting the inauguration.
0“The election was stolen, so robbers are celebrating their loot,” he said. “We will not be part of that.”
0Meanwhile, Britain, Zimbabwe’s former colonial power, called for an independent investigation into the polling.
0“I strongly believe that an independent investigation of any allegations of election irregularities would be required for the election result to be deemed credible,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
0African observers noted flaws with the polls but said they were not so severe as to invalidate the results.
0Local independent election monitors cited serious problems with voter registration. The state-run media and security forces are also seen as biased in favour of Zanu-PF.
0Some African leaders, including Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and former South African president Thabo Mbeki, attended the event. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a special envoy.