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Vote recount paves the way to run-off

Latest update : 2008-05-02

President Robert Mugabe conceded defeat and accepted to contest the runoff vote. The opposition called the results 'scandalous', fuelling speculation that it may boycott the second round. (Report: N.Rushworth)

Watch Morgan Tsvangirai's exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 on 'The Talk of Paris'

 

 

HARARE - Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe accepted defeat in the presidential election to the opposition's Morgan Tsvangirai and will contest a run-off in a protracted political battle that has raised fears of bloodshed.

 

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) cried foul after Zimbabwe's electoral body announced on Friday that he had won 47.9 percent of the vote but faces a run-off after failing to garner enough votes for an outright majority.

 

The MDC described the announcement of the long-delayed result as "scandalous daylight robbery". It says Tsvangirai won more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 29 election and Mugabe's 28-year rule is over.

 

But Mugabe's old foe has few options. If Tsvangirai refuses to take part in a second round, Mugabe would keep his hold on power according to electoral law. The MDC said it would decide at the weekend whether to contest a run-off.

 

An aide to Mugabe said the president accepted the result of the first round and would contest a second round of votes.

 

"The presidential result as announced do not reflect the genuine expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people given the many anomalies, malpractices, deflation of figures relating to ZANU-PF candidates," chief election agent Emmerson Mnangagwa told reporters.

 

Western powers expressed doubt that a run-off could be fair.

 

Chief Elections Officer Lovemore Sekeramayi said Tsvangirai won 47.9 percent with Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain, on 43.2 percent. Independent Simba Makoni, a ruling party defector, took 8.3 percent.

 

"Since no candidate has received the majority of the total votes cast ... a second election shall be held on a date to be announced by the commission," Sekeramayi said.

 

 

 

ECONOMIC MELTDOWN

 

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will set the date of the run-off. By law, a second round should be held within 21 days of the result, but the ZEC has the power to extend it. Political observers say it is likely to extend it to within about 40 days.

 

The opposition, critics and human rights groups have accused Mugabe of unleashing militias to scare Zimbabweans into backing him in the run-off. The government denies the allegation and says MDC members have carried out political violence.

 

Zimbabweans had hoped the election would usher in a new era free of an economic meltdown that has brought food and fuel shortages and the world's highest inflation rate of over 165,000 percent.

 

Instead, they are victims of a political struggle between a president critics call ruthless and Tsvangirai, who has spent his time outside the country, not among supporters at home risking crackdowns.

 

"I don't think it's in anyone's interest not to have a peaceful resolution. Investors hope they are seeing the beginning of the end but they know that might take weeks or months," said Richard Segal, Africa strategist at Renaissance Capital.

 

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti told a news conference in neighbouring South Africa the results showed Tsvangirai should be declared president.

 

"According to the law, the person receiving the highest number of votes is the president of the republic of Zimbabwe with effect from the day of such declaration," he said.

 

 

 

CREDIBILITY PROBLEMS

 

The United States and former colonial power Britain questioned the credibility of the official results and voiced concern over how fair a run-off could be.

 

U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said: "This isn't a case of better late than never. That final tally, I think, has rather serious credibility problems given the inexplicably long delays and some of the post-election irregularities."

 

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: "While the process lacks transparency, it is clear that President Mugabe lost the presidential election. His campaign of violence and intimidation over the last month must stop immediately."

 

Mugabe accuses Britain of plotting with the opposition to oust him.

 

The European Commission called for Zimbabwe to allow international monitors to ensure a free and fair run-off.

 

Opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the verification of the votes had not been done properly.

 

"This whole thing is a scandal, scandalous daylight robbery and everyone knows that," he told Reuters. "We won this election outright, and yet what we are being given here as the outcome are some fudged figures meant to save Mugabe and ZANU-PF."

 

Date created : 2008-05-02

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