Â Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said on Friday it would reject results of a presidential election that would force a run-off against veteran ruler Robert Mugabe.
Official data showed the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai won 47,9% of the vote, beating Mugabe with 43,2%, but not enough to escape a second round contest with Mugabe.
The result has yet to be officially announced. The MDC says Tsvangirai won 50,3% of the vote and that the reign of Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is over. “It appears the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is determined to announce its result but certainly it will be rejected by us.
It will be rejected because we will have not finished the process,” said Tsvangirai’s representative Chris Mbanga.
“There is that urgency to announce the result but we will not be part of it. There are indeed some big differences in some constituencies and we are saying we want to verify them,” he told reporters during an adjournment in a process to verify the poll results which began on Thursday.
Asked how long this was likely to take, Mbanga said: “It can take days, weeks, months … It took us 30 days to get to this process so we are saying why hurry?” Election officials released the figures to candidates on Thursday after a month-long delay that had raised fears of widespread bloodshed in the country suffering economic ruin.
The official figures matched those leaked to Reuters earlier in the week by government officials, in a sign the ground was being prepared for a run-off. By law, that should be held within 21 days of a result being announced.
Tsvangirai has raised doubts over whether he would take part in a second round and has been out of the country since shortly after the vote, trying to keep up international pressure on Mugabe (84).
However, Tsvangirai has suggested he could contest a second round if international observers led by the United Nations monitored the process.
The main international observer group at the first round was from Zimbabwe’s neighbours.
MDC charges violenceThe opposition accuses the ruling Zanu-PF party, which lost its parliamentary majority in a parallel vote on March 29, of a campaign of violence and intimidation ahead of a possible second round and says 20 of its members have been killed.
The government denies that and accuses the MDC of political attacks.
On Wednesday, the United States cast doubt on the credibility of the election results and said it was hard to see how a run-off could be fair because of state-orchestrated violence.
“President Mugabe must call off his dogs and cease his security services’ and his supporters’ attacks on those who are simply trying to express their views,” said State Department spokesperson Tom Casey.
Mugabe brands his opponents as stooges of Western powers bent on driving him from power.
Senegal said Mugabe told its foreign minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, during a meeting in Harare on Thursday that he would readily accept the results of a second round vote and called on the opposition to make a similar commitment.
“President Mugabe said he was ready, if his side won, to extend his hand to all the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe,” a Senegalese statement said.
Gadio also met South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for his cautious diplomatic approach to Zimbabwe as chief mediator in the crisis. Mbeki was due to brief African religious leaders on Friday on his efforts to broker a solution.
Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, for which Mugabe’s critics blame his policies, has sent millions of refugees into neighbouring countries to escape severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages and inflation of 165 000% — the world’s highest. – Reuters