The United States said Tuesday it is apparent that Zimbabweans have voted for change after 28 years of rule by Robert Mugabe, and it is time for the country's electoral commission to confirm that. U.S. officials say further delay only raises more questions about the integrity of the process. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
U.S. officials are giving heavy credence to informal vote tallies by non-governmental groups showing opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangerai with a lead over President Mugabe.
They are calling on the Zimbabwean electoral commission to break its silence and acknowledge the result, in order to put to rest widespread suspicions of vote-rigging.
Traveling with President Bush in Europe, White House National Security Council Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a brief statement that it is clear the people of Zimbabwe have voted for change.
Johndroe said it is time for the electoral commission to, in his words, confirm the results we have all seen from the local polling stations and respected NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations).
At a press briefing here, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey noted that election authorities in Zimbabwe have already acknowledged a strong showing by the opposition in Saturday's parliamentary voting.
Casey said the lack of any official information on the presidential vote is of major concern and unhelpful:
"Continued delay in putting out any results, particularly when you've seen some parallel counts and some sample counts released by NGO's and other groups, calls into question why this delay is occurring, and certainly gives us reason for additional concern," said Tom Casey. "So we want to see this tally be put forward as quickly as possible, and we believe it's appropriate for electoral authorities to do so."
The State Department had earlier appealed to the electoral commission, dominated by Mugabe loyalists, to rise above partisan sympathies and do the right thing by following the law and making sure that all votes cast are accurately counted.
A senior official who spoke to reporters here said U.S. diplomats in Harare have been in touch with officials of both Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Morgan Tsvangerai's Movement for Democratic Change, but are not involved in any mediation on a transition.
The official said if Mr. Mugabe has in fact lost the election, the United States would hope that he would be willing to acknowledge that fact and step aside. However he said given Zimbabwe's recent political history, such a turn of events cannot be guaranteed.
The United States has been a bitter critic of the Mugabe government for many years and the official said there would be no particular lamentation from Washington when the longtime ruler departs.
But he stressed the need for constitutional change, saying the United States does not want to see, as he put it a non-democratic leader replaced non-democratically.