Archive for March, 2008


HARARE — Zimbabwe’s independent electoral monitors
will imminently announce that the opposition leads in Zimbabwe’s
national elections.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Zimbabwe Election Support
Network data show that with 433 polling stations sampled, opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai has 49.5 per cent of the vote; President
Robert Mugabe has 42 per cent and independent candidate Simba Makoni
has 8 per cent, according to people familiar with the figures. The
margin of error is 2 per cent.

Under Zimbabwean law, if no candidate takes 50 per cent plus one
vote, there must be a run-off between the top two candidates within 21
days. In the event of a run-off, Mr. Makoni’s supporters would almost
certainly back Mr. Mugabe.

This news has enormous significance: the opposition will be
massively bolstered by the fact that Mr. Mugabe was shown to finish
second in a poll, for the first time since he took power here at
independence in 1980. It suggests that efforts of his Zanu-PF party to
rig the vote were not successful.

Supporters of Zimbabwe ruling party ZANU PF celebrate in Mbere township in Harare on March 31, 2008, as first results in the general elections are announced. Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change and President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF were level-pegging as the results trickled in from a weekend general election.

Enlarge Image

Supporters
of Zimbabwe ruling party ZANU PF celebrate in Mbere township in Harare
Monday, as first results in the general elections are announced.
Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change and President
Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF were level-pegging as the results
trickled in from a weekend general election. (Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

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Opposition claims early lead

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Sunday claimed an early lead in
elections, including in some rural strongholds of President Mugabe

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The Globe and Mail

This is also a courageous act on the part of the monitors, who are
defying the government, which has insisted that only its own Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission can release results.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change has repeatedly
claimed victory in this election since shortly after polls closed on
Saturday. Party secretary Tendai Biti said today that the party has
photographs of all 4,000 polling stations showing the results posted as
ballots were counted, and that these show the MDC has as much as
two-thirds of the vote nationally. But the MDC has not made its own
figures public in the same way that the election network is about to do.

The Electoral Commission released no results until 36 hours after
polls closed and has progressed at a glacial pace all day. The latest
official figures have less than a quarter of constituencies counted,
with a one-seat lead to Zanu-PF.

The release of this data is a significant move for democracy in
Zimbabwe but it does not realistically change the fact that the
electoral commission may proceed with the release of figures that show
a Zanu-PF win, as is widely feared here.

Few people here believe that Mr. Mugabe is prepared to leave office.
The next few hours may prove crucial in the process of political change
here.

N’DJAMENA (Reuters) – Chad’s President Idriss Deby on Monday granted
an official pardon to six French aid workers jailed in December for
abducting children.

The six members of the Zoe’s Ark charity were
sentenced to eight years’ hard labour by a Chadian court late last year
after it convicted them of trying to fly 103 African children to Europe
without permission.

The
charity workers, who had denied the charges, were flown back to France
in late December and were serving their prison sentences there under a
cooperation agreement. They are now expected to be released on Monday
evening.

"The presidential pardon is accorded to Eric Breteau, Emilie
Lelouch, Dominique Aubry, Alain Peligat, Philippe Van Winkelberg and
Nadia Merimi," said a presidential decree, read on state radio in the
former French colony.

STONEHENGE (Reuters) – Archaeologists set out on Monday to unlock
one of the secrets of Stonehenge, the majestic monument in southern
England — when were the first standing stones placed at the ancient
religious site?

The concentric stone circles that make up
Stonehenge, 80 miles (130 km) southwest of London on the sweep of
Salisbury Plain, consist of giant sandstone blocks or sarsens and
smaller bluestones — volcanic rock of a blueish tint with white flecks.

Stonehenge
experts Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright will use modern carbon dating
techniques and analysis of soil pollen and sea shells to work out when
the stones were set up, in the first archaeological dig at the World
Heritage site since 1964.

"If you want to find out why Stonehenge was built, you need to
look 250 kilometres away to the Presili Hills in north Pembrokeshire,
where the first bluestones that built Stonehenge come from," Wainwright
told reporters as the two-week dig began.

The two archaeologists,
who have worked extensively in the Presili Hills in recent years,
believe the bluestones, which made up the first stone circles at
Stonehenge, were thought to have magical curative powers.

The
massive standing stones, set up as long as 5,000 years ago, dominate
the even older religious site, marked by numerous burial mounds or
barrows.

But what was envisioned as a torch relay around the world that would
illustrate unity has instead become a lightning rod for protests.

Activists unfurled banners condemning China’s rights record at last week’s
flame-lighting ceremony in Greece and on Sunday a small group of protesters
tried to block the flame’s handover to Beijing officials.

The flame, encased in a lantern, was escorted off a specially equipped plane
emblazoned with the words: "Journey of Harmony" and brought to Tiananmen
Square, the focus of democracy protests that were crushed in 1989. In the
square, the flame was split in two for the first time in its history.

One flame will be taken to Tibet where climbers, training for years, plan to
carry it to the peak of Mount Everest – the world’s highest mountain. The
second flame will journey around the world before returning to China in
early May for a journey encompassing every province. Security is certain to
be tightest in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

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