Sat, May 03, 2008 - Page 6 News List

MDC rejects Zimbabwe recount

AND STILL COUNTING Opposition parties said that 120,000 votes for President Robert Mugabe appeared out of nowhere, making it necessary to hold a runoff

AP AND AFP , HARARE

Esther Deve, left, and her 10-year-old nephew Francis Zondo are pictured after an assault by suspected ruling party supporters in Mudzi North, Zimbabwe, on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Zimbabwe’s opposition will reject official results from a March 29 presidential election that appear to give no candidate an outright majority, a senior opposition figure said yesterday.

“It appears ZEC [Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission] is determined to announce its results that will certainly be rejected by us,” Chris Mbanga said on the sidelines of all-party talks hosted by the commission in Harare.

“We will reject simply because we’ll not have finished the verification exercise,” said Mbanga, an aide to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who claims to have won an outright victory against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Sources present at the closed-door meeting said on the first day of talks on Thursday that election officials said Tsvangirai had had won 47.8 percent and Mugabe had won 43.2 percent.

But the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party presented its own figures claiming Tsvangirai had won 50.3 percent, just scraping past the threshold needed to avoid a second round run-off, the sources added.

“It has already taken ZEC over 30 days to come up with their figures. Why must it take a few minutes to agree on their figures?” Mbanga said.

“There are indeed some very big differences in some constituency results and we are simply saying we want an opportunity to verify them,” he said.

More than a month after the vote, Zimbabweans are awaiting an official announcement of results, which will not be made until a verification process that began on Thursday is complete.

Party officials are being asked to confirm the electoral commission’s tally as part of the verification. The opposition’s objections make it likely it will be several more days before an announcement.

Electoral and party officials resumed their meetings yesterday morning after adjourning on Thursday afternoon.

The opposition and rights groups have accused Mugabe of withholding results to buy time to steal a runoff through intimidation or fraud.

Opposition spokesman George Sibotshiwe said the MDC was asking the commission to account for 120,000 votes it said went to Mugabe, but Sibotshiwe said even Mugabe’s party had not claimed.

“We just said to the electoral commission we’re not moving forward until we understand where these 120,000 votes came from,” he said. If those votes went to Tsvangirai, he would avoid a runoff.

Sibotshiwe expected the verification to take three or four more days, saying: “There’s a lot that needs to be looked at.”

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said yesterday that the tally of Mugabe’s party indicated a runoff would be necessary.

Independent observers also have been saying that Tsvangirai won the most votes, but not the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a runoff.

Matonga said the Constitution required a second round be held no sooner than 21 days from the announcement of the results, but that the electoral commission could take up to a year if officials believed that was necessary.

Mugabe has pledged to accept the verdict of any runoff vote and called on the opposition to do the same, Senegalese officials said on Thursday.

Also See: The AU must act now to protect Zimbabwe

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