ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe was yesterday sworn in after being declared the landslide winner of a widely condemned election that African observers said was scarred by violence and intimidation.
Mugabe was the only candidate and went ahead with the vote in defiance of much world opinion, including in Africa.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew a week ago, saying a systematic campaign of violence, which killed nearly 90 of his followers, made a free and fair vote impossible.
The electoral commission said Mugabe won 85.51% of the vote compared to 43.2% in elections in March won by Tsvangirai with 47.9% -- short of the absolute majority needed for a first round victory.
The commission said the voters turnout was 42.37%, almost exactly the same as the March 29 elections.
Mugabe yesterday said he was committed to talking to the opposition to solve the countryâ€™s political crisis.
â€œIndeed it is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall, as diverse political parties, hold consultation towards dialogue as we minimise our differences and enhance the area of unity and cooperation,â€ Mugabe said after being sworn in for a sixth term of office.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday urged China and other powers to back strong steps against Mugabe.
Beijing, together with South Africa and Russia, have consistently blocked United Nations sanctions or other measures.
The electoral commission released the result of Fridayâ€™s vote in less than 48 hours, compared to five weeks for the March poll.
â€œI therefore declare Robert Gabriel Mugabe to be the duly elected president of the Republic of Zimbabwe,â€ said chief elections officer Lovemore Sekeramai.
Mugabe, 84 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was quickly sworn in for a new five-year term in a ceremony on the lawns of State House, complete with a military band, marching honour guard and the countryâ€™s judges in red robes and wigs.
Tsvangirai, who rejected Mugabeâ€™s invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony, dismissed it as meaningless.
He said he would ask the African Union leaders meeting in Egypt today not to recognise the re-election.
Mugabe is due to attend the AU meeting where he says he will confront his African critics.
Mugabeâ€™s spokesman, George Charamba, said the invitation to Tsvangirai was â€œdone in the spirit of the presidentâ€™s wish to reach out ... It is a major step towards political engagement.â€
But Tsvangirai told Reuters: â€œI canâ€™t give support to an exercise Iâ€™m totally opposed to... the whole world has condemned it, the Zimbabwean people will not give this exercise legitimacy and support.â€
Monitors and witnesses reported a low turnout in many areas during the election and said some ballots had been spoilt despite a campaign by Mugabeâ€™s ZANU-PF party to force people to vote in some places.
President Robert Mugabe sworn in