April 5, 2008

Presidential election: ZANU-PF demands for recount / Opposition gains majority in parliament and half of the seats in the senate

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has reasserted that it had won outright last week's presidential election and signalled its reluctance to go into a second round run-off. The assertion, made by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at a news conference in Harare, came after the MDC told foreign diplomats in Harare on Friday that, "according to official figures published by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)… Tsvangirai has won the presidential election."

As the state newspaper Sunday Mail reported, the ruling party ZANU-PF has in the meantime demanded a vote recount, which would mean a further delay in the release of results from the presidential election, prompting outrage from the opposition party. The Movement for Democratic Change — which claims its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential ballot— said it would not accept a recount. "How do you have a vote recount for a result that has not been announced? That is ridiculous," said Nelson Chamisa, opposition spokesman. He accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of vote fraud. "These claims are totally unfounded and they are only meant to justify ZANU-PF's rigging," he said. The Sunday Mail quoted a letter from a lawyer representing ZANU-PF calling for a recount because of "errors and miscalculations in the compilation of the poll result." The party also asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to defer announcement of the presidential election results because of the "anomalies," the paper reported.

The report came a day after Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to step down and accused the country's president of plotting a campaign of violence to bolster his chances of winning an expected runoff. Eight days after the election, the commission has yet to announce the results. Unofficial tallies by independent monitors show Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe — but fewer than the 50% plus one vote required avoiding a runoff. The law requires a runoff within 21 days of the initial election, but diplomats in Harare and at the United Nations say Mugabe may order a 90-day delay to give security forces time to prepare.

On Saturday, armed police barred lawyers and opposition officials from entering the High Court to pursue a hearing on an urgent petition they had filed demanding publication of the results. "We are not going to accept the so-called runoff. It is going to be a 'run-over' of Zimbabwe. People are going to be killed," Chamisa said. "We are not so naive a leadership to lead our people to slaughter." Tsvangirai on Saturday stopped short of saying the party would boycott any runoff. But he voiced concerns that the state would mobilize the armed forces, feared youth brigades and war veterans to terrorize voters into supporting Mugabe. "Mugabe must accept that the country needs to move forward. He cannot hold the country to ransom. He is the problem not the solution," said Tsvangirai. He also appealed to African leaders and the U.N. to intervene to "prevent chaos and dislocation." Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga dismissed fears of violence as "a lot of nonsense."

Meanwhile, President Thabo Mbeki has dismissed Zimbabwe's opposition MDC's call, urging foreign intervention in Zimbabwe. Mbeki says the election process should be allowed to go forward. Earlier, Zanu-PF accused the MDC of what it termed spreading false rumours to get international sympathy.
Official results for parliamentary elections held alongside the presidential race showed Mugabe's ZANU-PF losing its majority in the parliament for the first time in the country's history. Final results of the parliamentary election show that Mugabe's Zanu PF won 97 seats while the opposition MDC won 99 seats and a breakaway MDC faction won 10. One independent candidate also won a seat. The opposition had 41 of the 120 seats in the old, smaller assembly.
In the senate elections the ruling party has won half of the seats, as announced by Zimbabwe's electoral commission. Ruling ZANU-PF 30 (including one uncontested seat), Opposition MDC 24, Breakaway MDC faction six. (sapa/rts/SABC News/Sunday Mail, Harare)

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