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Mugabe Strikes Conciliatory Note


In Zimbabwe, the ruling ZANU-PF party has won a majority of seats contested in Thursday's parliamentary election. On Saturday, President Robert Mugabe urged the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to accept the result, in the national interest.

An unusually conciliatory President Robert Mugabe was speaking to the media after his party won 78 of the 120 seats at stake in Thursday's poll. He urged the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, known as the MDC, to accept the result. "Sure, we will remain ready to interact with the MDC, with any members of our community, who want to discuss outside parliament," he said.

Mr. Mugabe however warned the opposition against any form of mass action saying it would be met with counter mass action by the government.

The leader of the opposition MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, said the election was marked by massive fraud, in an atmosphere of fear and political intimidation. He said the MDC is rejecting the result, because it does not believe it reflects the will of the people.

The MDC, which held 51 seats in the last parliament, now has 41.

In addition to the seats the ruling ZANU-PF won, the constitution gives Mr. Mugabe the power to appoint a further 30 members of the unicameral parliament, giving him the two-thirds majority he needs to amend the constitution.

Mr. Mugabe said he would amend sections of the constitution, but said the constitution would not, in his words, be overhauled. And, he said he would carry out his promise to re-introduce a senate. The second chamber of parliament was abolished in 1989.

Mr. Mugabe also said he is ready to reconcile with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he has accused of demonizing Zimbabwe as undemocratic.

Despite allegations of fraud, a South African observer mission said the elections reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe. The Southern African Development Community observer mission is withholding its assessment until Sunday.

Mr. Mugabe's former information minister, Jonathan Moyo, will be the only independent member of Parliament. Mr. Moyo was expelled from the ruling party for defying a party directive not to stand as an independent. He had been dropped from the candidate list for organizing a meeting not sanctioned by the party leadership.