15 April 2002

Zimbabwe opposition to challenge poll win in court

Zimbabwe's opposition argued in court on Friday 12, that Robert Mugabe won the presidential election last month by massive fraud and violence. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, said: "Our lawyers have uncovered mountains of hardcore and powerful evidence of electoral fraud, which if presented to an independent and impartial court would undoubtedly result in Robert Mugabe's electoral victory being set aside." He gave no details of the evidence, but he said the case might not get a fair hearing because the independence of the judicial system had been compromised by Mr Mugabe's packing the courts with compliant judges. The challenge is being brought under the Electoral Act, which requires such cases to be begun within 30 days of the ballot results. Mr Tsvangirai and his party are proceeding with the case despite talks between the MDC and the ruling Zanu PF party to try to resolve the political crisis.

International observers, including the Commonwealth, condemned the March 9-11 election, citing widespread state-sponsored political violence and fraud. The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe for a year and the US and EU have refused to accept Mr Mugabe as the legitimate president. For its part, the government has formally charged Mr Tsvangirai with plotting to assassinate Mr Mugabe. The opposition leader denies the charges and is out on bail. The MDC case will centre on evidence that Zanu PF inflated the voter turnout in rural areas, stuffed ballot boxes and locked out voters in the opposition's urban strongholds. Last month the opposition said it had found widespread disparities in the official voting figures, which showed that Mr Mugabe won the election by 56% to Mr Tsvangirai's 42%. The state election supervisory commission's voting tables differed widely from the results announced by the registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede, opposition officials said in a report that included purported copies of the voting tables. The tallies showed unusually high voter turnouts in ruling party strongholds and a decline in urban opposition strongholds since the parliamentary elections in 2000.

Meanwhile, a senior member of the Zimbabwean opposition says his party will pull out of talks with Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party, if they fail to reach an agreement to re-run last month's presidential elections within four weeks of negotiations. Tendai Biti, a spokesman on foreign affairs for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk that his party would call off negotiations with the Zimbabwe Government if the matter was not addressed. "If after four weeks there is no prospect of an agreement then there is no point in engaging in verbal exercises," he said. In the interview Mr Biti denied that by agreeing to talk to a government it has labelled "illegitimate," his party had "sold" its principles, saying the MDC had an obligation to break the political impasse in Zimbabwe. "We have not sold out on any principle," he said. "The principle is that the Zanu PF regime is illegitimate and we have to go back to the question of legitimacy, by allowing the people of Zimbabwe to have a free and fair election where they can freely express their political choice." (ZWNews / Guardian, BBC)


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