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Zimbabwe's run-off poll faces delay

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Latest update : 2008-05-14

Zimbabwe's presidential run-off poll is to be delayed by as much as 10 weeks, according to a leaked government document, in a move denounced by the opposition.

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Morgan Tsvangirai said the MDC has "come up with a result which we feel is credible. That result gives us a decisive victory so there's no need for a run-off." Click here to watch.
   
Zimbabwe's presidential run-off poll is to be delayed by as much as 10 weeks, a government document obtained by AFP showed Wednesday, in a move denounced by the opposition as an attempt to "resuscitate" veteran President Robert Mugabe.

A second round of voting had been expected by May 23 under Zimbabwean law, but the country's top electoral body is to announce Thursday that an election can take place as late as July 31.

"It's clearly illegal and meant to resuscitate (the ruling) ZANU-PF," said a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa, after being informed of the delay.

In a first round of voting on March 29, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe by 47.9 to 43.2 percent but fell short of the 50 percent plus one vote required to be declared winner.

The aftermath of the first-round ballot has been marked by unrest in which pro-government militias are accused of intimidating opposition supporters. Many political opponents of the regime have also been arrested.

The results of the first round were published a much-delayed five weeks after the ballot -- on May 2 -- and Zimbabwean law was understood to stipulate that the second round should take place within 21 days of this date.

But, in a document to be published in the government's official gazette on Thursday and read to AFP by a source at the printers, this time limit has been extended to 90 days, making July 31 the last possible date for an election.

The document does not set a day for the ballot, only the time limit within which it must take place.

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, George Chiweshe, declined to confirm the new 90-day limit but explained why the authorities had approved a delay -- which the ruling party has claimed the law provides for.

"Because we need more time for our preparations, to put our logistics together and the 21 days is insufficient," he told AFP.

The opposition has consistently claimed that delays in the electoral process are designed to give Mugabe, who has been in power since the country's break from white rule in 1980, the time to rig his reelection.

Numerous investigations and testimony by Zimbabwean groups have revealed evidence of beatings and intimidation by government-backed militias since the first ballot and the MDC says 32 of its supporters have been killed.

Amid outside pressure to allow fair elections and to end political violence, the country's justice minister proposed the establishment of cross-party teams to probe attacks on Wednesday.

"Whenever there is a claim of an act of politically motivated violence committed, it should be very good that we form joint teams made up of the (ruling party) ZANU-PF and MDC so that we can establish the veracity of these claims," Patrick Chinamasa told state television.

ZANU-PF's political commissar, Elliot Manyika, also told state television that the ruling party did not want any more loss of life.

"We are calling on everyone to desist from violence," he said. "In this country, there is law and order."

The UN's representative to Zimbabwe had warned Tuesday that escalating unrest risked reaching crisis levels and said most violence had been directed at the MDC, although opposition supporters had also retaliated.

MDC spokesman Chamisa said the new delay to the run off would mean "90 days of beating up people, killing and destroying property."

Tsvangirai, who has been abroad since early May, announced his intention to contest the run-off on Saturday, but he listed a series of conditions to guarantee his participation.

He also warned that any extension to the 21-day limit risked "delegitimising" the election.

His conditions include an end to violence, the presence of peacekeepers and foreign election monitors, free media and changes to the electoral commission.

Tsvangirai had been expected back in Harare at the beginning of this week, but aides say he will return this coming weekend.

A one-time regional role model, Zimbabwe's economy has been in meltdown since the start of a land reform programme at the turn of the decade which saw thousands of white-owned farms seized.

Inflation now stands at over 165,000 percent, unemployment at more than 80 percent and even basics such as cooking oil and bread are in scarce supply.

Date created : 2008-05-14

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