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Zimbabwe opposition: Runoff risks violence

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) — The opposition candidate who contends that he is the victor in Zimbabwe’s presidential election says he is against a runoff with President Robert Mugabe, because he fears violence.

We went into this election without the need for a runoff. This is totally unacceptable, Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters in a conference call Saturday. He previously had said he would be willing to participate in a second round of voting.

This country cannot afford a runoff. A runoff would traumatize and polarize the nation, Tsvangirai added.

Mugabe’s party has said those concerns are unfounded.

On Friday, Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF said he was prepared for a runoff should the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission call for one. A runoff is required if neither candidate wins at least 51 percent of the vote.

The runoff would have to be held within 21 days of the commission releasing the results.

Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change, filed an application with the nation’s Supreme Court, asking that it order the commission to release the figures.

Typically, the results of general elections are announced within two or three days of polls closing, said Lovemore Madhuku, a law professor at the University of Zimbabwe and chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly.

Although Madhuku said there is no deadline by law to release the results — despite claims by members of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change — he agreed that a delay as long as this one is unusual.

The process is very fast. … This one, the delay is certainly abnormal, he said.

A hearing scheduled for Saturday was delayed until Sunday because the commission said it wasn’t ready with the necessary documents and needed more time, opposition lawyer Alec Muchadehama said. The hearing is set for noon (1000 GMT) in Harare, the capital.

We consented, and we appreciated that they needed to file those papers, although we would be happier with the matter being heard as quickly as possible, Muchadehama said. He said the matter is being heard before Justice Tendai Uchena.

Tsvangirai asked Saturday why the commission could not count 2.5 million votes in a week.

He accused Mugabe of preparing to promote violence and intimidate voters, because he has stationed militias and war veterans across the country.

The delayed presidential election results have raised fears that Mugabe is working on ways to cling to power. A look at the candidates

There were three other races in the election: House and Senate seats and local council members. The only results released so far are the House votes, which show Tsvangirai’s party was victorious.

Mugabe’s party has vowed to contest 16 seats in that race, contending that there was cheating involved in those constituencies.

On Saturday, police briefly blocked journalists and lawyers representing the Movement for Democratic Change from entering the High Court. They later were allowed inside.

Executive Zanu-PF members have promised to respect the outcome of the election, said Bright Matonga, a party spokesman who is also the government’s deputy information minister.

We don’t think there will be violence. There’s no need for violence, and we are going to show the rest of the world that Zimbabwe can hold peaceful elections, Matonga said Thursday.

Matonga attributed the delay in announcing results to the fact that four elections were held simultaneously, leaving the electoral commission with a huge task.

Asked when he would release the presidential results, the chairman of the electoral commission, George Chiweshe, said he was prevented from talking about it because of the pending court decision.

Zanu-PF officials said they will support Mugabe in a runoff, indicating that is the direction the party is taking. But some party members said there was an attempt to avoid a runoff because the party knows Mugabe would lose.

The opposition has asked the United Nations to intervene to avoid bloodshed ahead of a possible presidential runoff, a party spokesman said.

There were more reports of violence Friday, and police continued to hold two Americans, including a New York Times journalist, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said. The Zimbabwean government has denied cracking down on journalists and the opposition. Watch as journalist describes her arrest

Members of the Zimbabwe Peace Project said Friday that they had received reports that two homes had been burned in the Mudzi District of Mashonaland East Province, and they blamed the incidents on government retribution for those who backed opposition candidates. See photos from the country’s elections

Peace Project Executive Director Jestina Mukoko said the homes belonged to people who campaigned for an MDC candidate in the parliamentary election.

Once revered as the breadbasket of southern Africa with good education and healthcare, Zimbabwe now has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, schooling is a luxury, and it is difficult to get even basic food supplies.

Inflation has skyrocketed to more than 100,000 percent; food production and agricultural exports have dropped drastically.
Zimbabwe opposition: Runoff risks violence – found here.

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April 5, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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