May 3, 2008

Opposition fury as results give Mugabe second chance at victory

Zimbabwe’s opposition rejected as "scandalous" official results that would force a run-off in the presidential election, but offered yesterday to share power with the ruling Zanu PF party in a coalition excluding Robert Mugabe. The results, which have been delayed for nearly five weeks, were given to party officials for the first time as they met in Harare to verify the figures. They show that Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC), has won but not with the majority required to avoid a second round between the leading candidates. According to officials, the election commission’s tally awarded Mr Tsvangirai 47.9 per cent of the vote and President Mugabe 43.2 per cent. The figures matched those leaked by senior government officials earlier in the week, indicating their acceptance by the ruling party. Yesterday they announced that Mr Mugabe planned to contest the run-off. The MDC, however, sticks by its tally of 50.3 per cent, enough to hand outright victory to Mr Tsvangirai and bring to an end nearly three decades of rule by Mr Mugabe. "Morgan Tsvangirai should be allowed to form a government of national healing that includes all Zimbabwean stakeholders," said Tendai Biti, the MDC’s deputy leader. It could include members of Zanu PF, but not its leader, he added. "The only condition we give . . . is that President Mugabe must immediately concede," Mr Biti said.
Under the verification process the candidates’ representatives must compare the official results with those they have compiled. In the polls on March 29, results from each polling station were published outside, allowing all parties to collect the same data. Despite pressure from the election commission to sign off the results, opposition officials said that they would first resolve the discrepancies in the counts. "It appears the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is determined to announce its result but certainly it will be rejected by us," Chris Mbanga, the electoral representative for Mr Tsvangirai, told reporters during a break in the verification meeting. The Mugabe regime, apparently stunned by its first loss of parliamentary control, has sought to buy time to explore its options of how to stay in power. These have included the prospect of a run-off and the campaign of violence against the opposition. In another stalling tactic, Zanu PF mounted a legal challenge yesterday in 52 Parliamentary constituencies where it was defeated. The authorities earlier ordered a recount in 23 constituencies but opposition victories were confirmed in nearly all of them. Mr Tsvangirai has been out of Zimbabwe since the week after the elections to lobby for regional support but also because of fears that he would be a victim of the anti-opposition campaign. The MDC says that at least 20 of its workers and supporters have been killed in the violence carried out by members of the Zanu PF youth militia, war veterans and uniformed security personnel. Mr Tsvangirai wants UN supervision of another poll if he is to take part. He said in a television interview in South Africa: "How can you have a run-off when Mugabe over the last month has been unleashing violence, death squads and violence against our structures and decimating our electoral structures on the ground?" (ZWNews)

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