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Latest update : 2008-04-09

Zimbabwe's High Court could force the electoral commission to release election results, in an appeal it considers 'urgent'. In ongoing tension, seven officials were arrested for 'undercounting' votes for President Robert Mugabe. (Report: R. Tompsett)

A legal wrangle over Zimbabwe’s elections went into its fourth day on Tuesday, further delaying the end of a 10-day stalemate that has dashed hopes of any quick respite from the country’s economic misery.


The High Court was due to issue a ruling on whether it would give urgent attention to an application by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to force electoral officials to release the results of a presidential election on March 29.


Even if it rules in favour of the opposition the legal case could drag on for days.


Zimbabweans, many reduced to misery by the meltdown of their once-prosperous economy, are anxiously waiting to see whether the election will end the 28-year-rule of President Robert Mugabe or make way for a runoff vote between him and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.


Tsvangirai says he has won the election and should be declared president. Mugabe’s party is pushing for a further delay in issuing results pending a recount.


In another legal case complicating the election stalemate, police said seven poll officials around the country were due to appear in court charged with undercounting votes cast for Mugabe.


Traders in neighbouring South Africa said the impasse was likely to weigh on the rand currency, briefly boosted last week when there was speculation Mugabe would stand down after his ruling ZANU-PF party suffered its first defeat in a parallel parliamentary poll.


“Counting against the rand is the way in which the Zimbabwe elections are rapidly deteriorating into a farce,” said market analysts ETM in a trading note.







But tensions reduced a little in the countryside after state media said police had ordered independence war veterans off white farms they had invaded in southern Masvingo province.


The veterans, used as political shock troops by Mugabe, warned last week they would invade all remaining white-owned farms after reports that white farmers were preparing to grab back farms seized under Mugabe’s land reforms.  The veterans led a wave of violent occupations of white farms as part of reforms that began in 2000.


“Police yesterday said they had managed to convince the war veterans not to take the law into their own hands and impressed upon them the force’s zero tolerance on violence,” the state-owned Herald newspaper said.


Tsvangirai met South African ruling party leader Jacob Zuma on Monday after appealing for help from outside powers to end Mugabe’s uninterrupted rule since independence.


Tsvangirai wrote in a newspaper article that Zimbabwe was on a “razor’s edge” because of the 84-year-old leader’s efforts to cling to power.

Zuma is the frontrunner to succeed President Thabo Mbeki in 2009 and has gradually expanded his power and influence since ousting Mbeki as African National Congress leader last December.


Zuma has said he supports Mbeki’s controversial policy of quiet engagement with Mugabe to end the crisis.


Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of planning violence to overturn results of the presidential and parliamentary votes.


Zimbabwe has inflation of more than 100,000 percent—the highest in the world—an unemployment rate above 80 percent and chronic shortages of food and fuel.


Millions have fled abroad to escape the economic collapse.


ZANU-PF and independent monitors’ projections show that although Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe he failed to win an absolute majority and will be forced into a run-off.


Electoral rules say this must be held three weeks after the release of results, meaning the longer the legal delays, the more time Mugabe will have to organise a fight-back.

Date created : 2008-04-08