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inauguration ceremony

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has been sworn in for a seventh term in office as the country’s president.

Thursday has been declared a public holiday to allow supporters of Robert Mugabe, 89, to attend the inauguration.

The ceremony had been delayed by a court petition filed by his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, over allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

But the Constitutional Court dismissed the case, declaring Robert Mugabe’s re-election “free, fair and credible”.

Robert Mugabe won with 61% of the presidential vote against 34% for Morgan Tsvangirai on July 31.

The elections ended a fragile power-sharing government formed by the two men in 2009 under pressure from regional leaders following elections the year before marred by violence and allegations of electoral fraud.

Outgoing Prime Minister and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he would not be attending the inauguration ceremony.

“Expecting Tsvangirai to attend the inauguration is like expecting a victim of robbery to attend a party hosted by the robber,” his spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, told AFP.

Free fizzy drinks and T-shirts reading “Mugabe fearless revolutionary” were being given to the arriving crowds.

Robert Mugabe has been sworn in for a seventh term in office as Zimbabwe's president

Robert Mugabe has been sworn in for a seventh term in office as Zimbabwe’s president

One of the banners in the stadium reads: “It’s Africa versus Europe with Zimbabwe as the new battlefront.”

The US and UK have expressed concern over the official results granting victory to Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.

But the African Union has said that any irregularities were not enough to overturn the margin of victory.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) lost two court cases related to fraud claims in last month’s disputed elections. Rulings were issued despite the MDC withdrawing its case saying it would not get a fair hearing.

The party alleged that more than a million voters were prevented from casting their ballots in polling stations, mostly in the capital and urban areas considered to be MDC strongholds.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which placed 7,000 observers around the country, has also judged the election flawed.

MDC officials have indicated they are unwilling to continue their partnership government with Zanu-PF.

Meanwhile, the US said recently that sanctions imposed on Robert Mugabe and some 119 other Zimbabwean individuals would remain in place until there were further political reforms.

Some 40 heads of state and government have been invited to attend the high-profile inauguration ceremony.

Once inaugurated, Robert Mugabe will serve another five-year term. Under the new constitution approved in a referendum earlier this year he will be able to serve another term after this.

Robert Mugabe served as Zimbabwe’s first post-independence prime minister between 1980 and 1987, and has held office as president ever since.

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Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, succeeding the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last month.

Thousands gathered on the streets of Caracas to show their support for Nicolas Maduro and to celebrate independence.

The inauguration ceremony follows a decision by the electoral body to carry out a full audit on all of the votes cast in Sunday’s disputed presidential poll.

Nicolas Maduro beat opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski by 1.5% of the vote.

Henrique Capriles, who believed there were voting irregularities, says he accepts the electoral audit.

Opposition supporters were expected to protest against Nicolas Maduro’s inauguration by banging on pots and pans, and playing salsa music.

Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, succeeding the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last month

Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, succeeding the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last month

Dozens of leaders from across the region (including Brazil, Cuba and Colombia), Iran and some Arab countries attended the ceremony.

Henrique Capriles made an appeal for peaceful protests in a bid to avoid further violence after clashes left seven people dead on Monday.

The National Electoral Council’s decision to audit all the paper receipts of electronic votes is seen as a major concession to the opposition.

The council had earlier audited 54% of the vote and said this showed that Nicolas Maduro, the chosen successor of the late President Hugo Chavez, had won a slim majority.

The official count indicates Nicolas Maduro won 50.8% of votes to Henrique Capriles’s 49.0%.

Henrique Capriles said he believed the crucial votes that cost him the presidency are among the unaudited 46% of the vote.

He said there were more than 3,000 incidents from Sunday’s poll that needed to be examined.

Correspondents say the announcement comes as a surprise to many after the electoral body initially said the results, which it announced on Sunday night, were “irreversible”.

The council’s president, Tibisay Lucena, told AFP news agency that the expanded audit was not a recount but would cover all ballot boxes not audited on election day by reviewing a sample two-thirds of them over the next month.

Venezuela uses electronic voting machines which register an elector’s decision and then emit a printed receipt for the voter to deposit into a sealed ballot box. For the audit, the receipts will be compared with the electronic tallies, to check for any irregularities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban leader Raul Castro were among the first heads of state to congratulate Nicolas Maduro on his win.

The governments of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina, among others, have also voiced their backing for Nicolas Maduro’s victory.

But the US has so far refused to recognize Nicolas Maduro’s win, calling for an audit of the results.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was not yet ready to validate the results of Sunday’s poll.

Several opposition-led protests erupted across the country after the official results were announced on Sunday.

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President Barack Obama, who was sworn in for his second term at a spectacular ceremony in front of the nation today, was looking decidedly well rested as he approached the podium, with not a wrinkle in sight.

Barack Obama’s smooth skin was so clear and glowing that it appeared as though a sweep or two of bronzer had been applied, with CNN commentators remarking he “looks five years younger”.

While some questioned whether Barack Obama had employed the help of a makeup artist, his smooth complexion may simply be down to his New Year vacation to Hawaii with his family.

It may also reveal his relief following the fiscal cliff deal, which was secured earlier this month.

Barack Obama, who was sworn in for his second term at a spectacular ceremony in front of the nation today, was looking decidedly well rested as he approached the podium, with not a wrinkle in sight

Barack Obama, who was sworn in for his second term at a spectacular ceremony in front of the nation today, was looking decidedly well rested as he approached the podium, with not a wrinkle in sight

Barack Obama had interrupted his vacation to return to the United States to save the country plunging over the fiscal cliff, and returned to Hawaii on New Year’s Day until January 6.

The return trip to his native Hawaii adds an estimated $3 million the President’s air travel tab – which will total more than $7million by the time the First Family returns to the White House later this month.

Barack Obama was not the only guest at the ceremony who raised eyebrows for his bronze complexion – Speaker of the House John Boehner also looked decidedly orange as he spoke at the Inaugural luncheon.

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