Zimbabwe opposition rejects vote recount

The MDC opposition party has rejected the partial vote recount from the March 29 elections. The recount is expected to take three days. The original count showed MDC to be the victor. (Report: A. Duval Smith, E. Jongwe)


Three weeks after Zimbabwe staged a general election, a partial recount was to begin on Saturday in a move that could see President Robert Mugabe's ruling party regain control of parliament.

The electoral commission, which is still to declare the outcome of the March 29 presidential election, was to begin recounting in 23 constituencies from 0600 GMT after a last-ditch opposition legal bid to block the process failed.

The recounts are being conducted following a string of complaints by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of irregularities in the initial vote counting.

The Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front lost in 21 of the 23 constituencies under the microscope and will be hoping that a new count will leave it back in control of the 210-strong seat chamber.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which currently has 109 seats against 97 for ZANU-PF, has denounced the recount as a ploy to steal back control of parliament and says it won't accept the outcome.

"We as a party will not accept any recount in respect of parliamentary seats," said MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti.

"We have no doubt on the insistence of a recount because ballot boxes have been stuffed. Those ballot boxes have become pregnant and reproduced."

The MDC has long regarded the electoral commission, whose leadership is appointed by the government, as a partisan body despite its nominal independent status.

The party's leader Morgan Tsvangirai has already proclaimed himself the victor over Mugabe in the presidential poll, convinced that he won enough votes on March 29 to avoid the need for a second round run-off.

The lack of results has not prevented ZANU-PF meanwhile from declaring that there will be a run-off and has endorsed Mugabe as its candidate.

The 84-year-old president avoided any direct mention of the election outcome or whether he would stand in a run-off when he delivered an address Friday at celebrations to mark Zimbabwe's 28th anniversary of independence from Britain.

Instead Mugabe, who has ruled uninterrupted since independence, devoted much of his speech to attacks on the former colonial power whom he accused of bribing voters to mark their ballots for the MDC.

"Through money as a weapon, (the British) literally buy some of our people to turn against their government, and accept to be politically manipulated in abandoning their rights," said Mugabe. "We are being bought like sheep, like livestock."

Tsvangirai has warned that ZANU-PF is arming itself for a "war" against the people in the aftermath of the elections, pointing as evidence to a shipment of weapons from China destined for Zimbabwe.

A South African high court judge on Friday refused permission for the weapons to be transported across the country to Zimbabwe. The ship later left Durban for an unknown destination, SAPA news agency reported.

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