World Wrap

Mugabe vies to continue 33-year presidency as Zimbabwe voters take to the polls

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
July 31, 2013

Zimbabweans vote in presidential election, U.N. report reveals significant increase in Afghanistan casualties this year, and Iraqi government admits a state of open war. Today is Wednesday, July 31, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A police officer casts his vote in Mbare outside Harare, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Zimbabwe voting underway. Zimbabweans came out in droves on Wednesday to vote in the country’s presidential election, deciding for the third time between incumbent President Robert Mugabe, 89, and his opponent, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai:

In Harare, the epicenter of Tsvangirai support, the mood was excited and upbeat. A large turnout, especially in cities, is likely to benefit the 61-year-old [Tsvangirai] and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, analysts say… Around 6.4 million people, or half the population, are registered to vote. Results are expected well within a five-day deadline intended to prevent a repeat of problems seen in the last election in 2008, when big delays led to serious violence. The threat of unrest remains at the back of people’s minds but the atmosphere was markedly lighter than five years ago, with both party leaders preaching peace and tolerance.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are confident of victory, raising fears of violence if the loser does not respect the results – especially given allegations of vote-fixing and other crooked practices. Polls opened on time at 0500 GMT and will remain open until 1700 GMT. Voting is overseen by 500 regional and 7,000 domestic monitors. Though the U.S. fears unfair elections, it may consider lifting sanctions against the country if Zimbabweans are pleased with the voting process. The EU and IMF have already taken steps towards integrating Zimbabwe into the greater economy, easing sanctions and agreeing to monitor Mugabe’s programs through year end, respectively. To win, the candidate must receive 50 percent plus one vote. A run-off vote will take place on September 11 if necessary.

Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), speaks during a news conference in Kabul, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Afghan women, children deaths on the rise. A United Nations report said the number of dead and injured civilians has increased by 23 percent in the first half of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012, as international forces transfer security responsibilities back to Afghan forces:

Women and children are increasingly the victims of the 12-year-old war, the report said, noting a 30 percent leap in the number of children killed. The total civilian death toll stood at more than 1,300, with 2,533 reported injuries… The U.N. report said bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), remained the single greatest killer, claiming 53 percent more victims than last year, most of them children. Fighting between security forces and insurgents had emerged as the second most significant cause of civilian deaths, with the report putting the death toll in crossfire at 207.

The increase in violence supports fear that Afghan troops, which face a lack of medical and logistical support and suffer one of the world’s highest desertion rates, will have difficulty containing the Taliban on their own. According to the report, a NATO-led force in Afghanistan said it was not responsible for the killing of ten children in an aerial strike, but the U.S. army will investigate allegations of war crimes committed in the strategic Wardak province. Fallout from the accusations, as well as the postponement of Afghan-U.S. peace talks over the Taliban’s new offices in Qatar, have raised tension between Kabul and Washington.

Blood stains are seen as a boy inspects the site of a bomb attack in Husseiniya district in Baghdad, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili

Open war. Iraq’s interior ministry acknowledged this week that the severely increased violence of recent months, coupled with a major jailbreak orchestrated by al Qaeda, signifies widespread sectarian war in the country:

Three years after U.S. troops pulled out, declaring the mission of restoring peace more or less complete, Iraq is no longer a post-conflict nation dealing with residual violence. It is now, once again, a full-blown sectarian war zone, with armed factions that hold territory and kill civilians at will… In a statement this week, the Interior Ministry at last acknowledged what most Iraqis have long since understood: “The country is currently facing an open war launched by bloodthirsty sectarian forces that aims to plunge the country into chaos.” The jailbreak has revealed that Iraq’s own security forces – trained and equipped by Washington with nearly $25 billion and numbering more than a million strong – are outmatched against foes who once took on the full might of the United States.

Iraq’s government had long claimed that militant attacks were isolated, and that the state was economically and politically stable. But insurgents are hurting oil production by killing repair crews and destroying infrastructure, and the past few months have been the deadliest in years. Civil war in Syria has also bolstered al Qaeda in Iraq, which has joined forces with one of Syria’s most powerful Sunni Islamist rebel group. Read more on why Iraq’s security officers are no match for sectarian bloodshed.

Nota Bene:  Egypt’s interim leaders call pro-Mursi vigils a threat to national security.

Standouts:

International cronut craze - Dunkin’ Donuts now sells cronuts, or New York pie donuts, in South Korea. (Quartz)

Assad filter - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has joined Instagram. (The Washington Post)

#DumpStoli - Gay bars throughout the world are boycotting Russian vodka over the country’s anti-gay laws. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Such great heights - A Chinese acrobat breaks a world record as he walks a tightrope between two hot air balloons. (The Guardian)

Weather-proof recyclables - An Indian research center in the antarctic is built from shipping containers. (Gizmag)

From the File:

  • Russian billionaire seeks U.S. government financing for luxury jets.
  • Iran grants Syria $3.6 billion credit deal.
  • France asks Hollande – what recovery?
  • Serbia’s largest party agrees to finance minister’s ouster.
  • Belarusian president catches man-sized catfish.

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