Harare, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was declared the winner Wednesday of Zimbabwe's bitterly contested presidential election Â a victory opponents and independent observers said was tainted by intimidation and fraud but backers saw as a mandate for seizing white-owned land.
The government said Mugabe was re-elected to a six-year term with about 56 percent of the vote. Morgan Tsvangirai, who waged the first serious challenge to Mugabe since independence from Britain, had 42 percent of the 3.1 million votes cast.
Tsvangirai denounced the results as "the biggest election fraud" he's seen. The former labor leader also charged that the election was "illegitimate in the eyes of the people."
The United States and several European nations said Mugabe's victory was marred by violence and intimidation.
"We are dealing with our friends to try to figure pout how to deal with this flawed election," President Bush said at a news conference. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a statement that the election's "numerous, profound irregularities" had thwarted the will of the people.
In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had conducted "a systematic campaign of violence and intimidation designed to achieve one outcome, power at all costs. It is no surprise this outcome has now been achieved."
Zimbabwean security forces were on full alert Wednesday to put down any unrest, state television reported. Military police set up roadblocks on main roads leading into Harare and a strong police presence was visible in many parts of the city.
Riot police on Wednesday night patrolled the poor suburb of Mabvuku, dispersing all gatherings of more than three people, while a group of about 20 ruling party supporters drove around Harare singing victory songs from the back of an open truck.
Government officials, who have repeatedly denied irregularities in the election, exulted in the final results.
"This is a runaway victory," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said. "It was won on the issue of the land," he added, referring to Mugabe's policy of seizing white-owned land and turning it over to landless blacks.
But independent observers from Norway, southern Africa and Zimbabwe described a complex tapestry of intimidation, unfair laws and chaotic voting procedures that tipped the poll in Mugabe's favor.
"The electoral process could not be said to have adequately complied with the norms and standards for elections," said G.D. Lefhoko, leader of the Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum's observer mission. He said his observers were attacked by militants as they visited a rural area in the weeks before the campaign.
The presidents of Kenya and Tanzania congratulated Mugabe on a victory they said reflected the will of the people.