HARARE, Zimbabwe — The party of Robert G. Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s long-ruling president, appeared to be on track to win a huge majority in Parliament after Wednesday’s elections, the Zimbabwe Election Commission announced Friday, allowing it to recapture parliamentary control from its main challenger, the Movement for Democratic Change.
The partial results were announced as African election observers on Friday presented a mixed report on the voting, saying that while it had been peaceful and orderly, serious problems were detected, including voters’ being turned away, too many ballots being printed, and bias in the news media.
But monitors from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, a regional trade bloc, concluded that the problems were not serious enough to invalidate the election.
“I have never seen an election that is perfect,” said Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria who led the African Union delegation, after cataloging the problems that plagued the vote. “We do not believe these instances will add up to the result not reflecting the will of the people.”
The regional trade bloc echoed this conclusion, calling the election “free and peaceful,” but officials stopped short of calling it fair, saying further investigation into the process was needed.
“We don’t want to jump to conclusions,” said Bernande Membe, Tanzania’s foreign minister and the leader of the observer mission.
Partial results in the local and parliamentary contests have been released by the election commission, but no results in the presidential race have been made public yet.
Patrick Chinamasa, a senior official of Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, and the minister of justice, said in a news conference that a record number of voters had turned out and given the party a resounding victory.
“The country had to decide whether to turn left or right, to move forward or back,” Chinamasa said, “to be swallowed into the beast of the Western countries or stay outside the mouth of the beast. The people have spoken.”
He castigated Morgan Tsvangirai, the main presidential challenger, who on Thursday called the election a “farce” and demanded an investigation by the African Union and the regional trade bloc.
“He makes the point the election was a farce, a sham election,” Chinamasa said. “Really? When 3.95 million people go to vote in cold weather, you call it a sham and a farce?”
On Thursday a coalition of local charities that had sent 7,000 observers to the polls said that as many as 1 million voters were either missing from the registration roll or were turned away from polling stations, casting doubt on the validity of the election. Chinamasa scoffed at the assertion that that many people had been disenfranchised.
“A million people is the whole of Harare,” Chinamasa said. “If there is grounds I say to Mr. Tsvangirai, feel free to challenge, take up your grievances with the Constitutional Court.”
Tsvangirai and other leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change were in emergency meetings Friday, trying to decide what to do next, party officials said.
“The MDC totally rejects the electoral process and the outcome as announced so far, as both were not free and fair,” the party said in a statement. “The Zimbabwean election was a monumental fraud by the state security agents and ZANU-PF.”
Under the constitution, the challengers can go to the Constitutional Court within seven days of the announcement of the final result, but the top court is packed with ZANU-PF loyalists, analysts say, making it unlikely that an appeal would succeed.