Mugabe begins sixth term after beatings, intimidation and murder do their job
· Poll discredited by international community
· Spoilt ballot papers covered in insults
Robert Mugabe was sworn in for a sixth term as Zimbabwe's president yesterday within minutes of the declaration of election results that showed his violent campaign to terrorise voters had delivered him close to 90% of the valid votes in Friday's widely discredited poll.
The government was certain enough of the outcome to send invitations to the ceremony extending Mugabe's 28-year rule before the results were even released. But there were signs of the deep unhappiness of voters herded to the polls with threats of violence in the large numbers of spoiled ballot papers, some with insults against Mugabe written on them.
The newly inaugurated president, who will travel to Egypt today to attend the African Union summit, called for "consultations" with his opponents but made no specific mention of a political settlement. The opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the election because of the wave of state-sponsored violence against his supporters, described yesterday's ceremony as "a complete joke".
A number of foreign diplomats refused to attend, including the British ambassador, Andrew Pocock, while their governments threatened to further isolate Mugabe.
Britain's Africa minister, Mark Malloch Brown, said Britain would join the US in pressing for more sanctions. "This is Mugabe against the world and that makes both sanctions and other political pressures much more plausible because they will be universal," he said.
"In the past what he called sanctions were a very limited set of European and American measures against individuals around him. We can now go way beyond that to global measures."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said there was "a very good argument" for sending in an international force "to restore peace".
As the final election results were announced, it was clear that the ruling Zanu-PF party's military-led campaign of violence and intimidation against the voters - which has left more than 100 dead, hundreds more missing or jailed, and thousands beaten and in hospital - had done its job.
The electoral commission declared that Mugabe almost doubled the number of votes he received in the first round of elections against Tsvangirai three months ago. The shift was particularly dramatic in provinces where the state-orchestrated violence had been focused.
In Manicaland, the number of votes declared for Mugabe more than doubled from 141,592 in the first round to 323,284 on Friday.
In Harare, where a vicious campaign of beatings, abductions, rapes and house destruction hit townships such as Epworth in recent weeks, Mugabe again more than doubled the size of his vote.
Despite violence and intimidation, many remained bravely defiant. More than 130,000 people spoiled their ballots.
Almost no one outside Zimbabwe's ruling party and government has judged the elections free and fair.
The 599 foreign observers allowed into the country, when most were kept out, proved to be less compliant than Zanu-PF expected.
The Pan African Parliament monitors said yesterday that the result should not stand. Marwick Khumalo, a Swazi parliamentarian who headed the delegation of 50 observers, said it concluded "the atmosphere prevailing in the country did not give rise to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections".
"The political environment throughout the country was tense, hostile and volatile ... characterised by an electoral campaign marred by high levels of intimidation, violence, displacement of people, abductions, and loss of life," he said.
Khumalo also said the Zimbabwe electoral commission had failed to fulfil its duty as an independent body.
Mugabe will now go to today's African Union summit claiming that despite the opposition boycott he has the overwhelming support of Zimbabwean voters.
He is nonetheless under growing pressure from parts of the continent.
Kenya's prime minister, Raila Odinga, urged the AU to send troops to free the people of Zimbabwe and called Mugabe "a shame to Africa".
The European Union has backed calls for an interim powersharing government but said it should be based on the results of the first round of elections three months ago, won by Tsvangirai.