Fever pitch over presidential election results

Though a partial recount of ballots cast in the March 29 elections confirmed the opposition's majority in parliament, official results for the presidential contest continue to be delayed. Analysts say they expect a result sometime this week.


The suspense mounted in Zimbabwe on Sunday over the outcome of a presidential election four weeks on from voting day, as lawyers applied for the release of more than 200 opposition activists.

A partial recount of the ballots in the March 29 parliamentary and presidential elections has already handed the opposition an historic victory in parliament over President Robert Mugabe's ruling party.

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, George Chiweshe, said on Saturday he expected the recount of the presidential vote to be completed by Monday but could not say when the results would be released.

A state newspaper meanwhile called on Zimbabweans to defend the country's national liberation "revolution" against foreign intervention as Britain and the United States kept up pressure on Mugabe.

Analysts said they believed the presidential election results would be published this week but supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) sounded a sceptical note.

The opposition mantains its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won an outright majority against 84-year-old Mugabe. The country's main independent election monitoring body said Tsvangirai won but failed to get more than 50 percent.

"I think we will get them this week. They have delayed them for too long, and, given the pressure from the international community, there is no doubt they will be announced this week," said Lovemore Madhuku, a political analyst.

"It is very likely that they will announce that Mugabe did not get a 50 percent majority, but will show him ahead of Tsvangirai," Madhuku said.

But chief opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa expressed doubt.

"It is very difficult to believe a person who has failed to produce results for the past four weeks who says that he can deliver within days," he said.

"We consider it as empty talk which has to be validated by some kind of action and concrete steps that inspire confidence."

Zimbabweans went to the polls a month ago to elect a president, parliamentarians and local government councillors, but the results of the presidential vote have not yet been made public.

The authorities have blamed the delays on transport and logistics problems.

Following the elections, the authorities also ordered a partial vote recount after allegations made by Mugabe's Zimbabwean African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party of vote fraud by the opposition.

Under Zimbabwean law, a second round of voting will have to be held if there is no outright winner but the MDC has said it will not take part in any run-off, accusing the authorities of trying to rig the result.

As international pressure on the government to release the results increased, the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper, a government mouthpiece, called on Zimbabweans to reject foreign interference.

"Never, since independence in 1980, has the liberation struggle been under such a threat. Will true revolutionaries please stand up!" the paper's political editor, Munyaradzi Huni, wrote in an opinion piece.

Meanwhile lawyers for the opposition said on Sunday they were seeking a court order for access to more than 200 activists detained by armed riot police in a swoop on MDC headquarters in Harare on Friday.

Lawyers said the activists should be either charged or released by Monday.

The MDC also took out a full page in The Standard, an independent newspaper, listing eight of the 15 people it says have been killed by government supporters in post-election violence.

Among the victims listed was a five-year old boy, Brighton Mbwera, who allegedly burnt to death after his home in the northeastern district of Uzumba was set on fire by ZANU-PF supporters.

Police could not immediately be reached to comment on the report.

The main US envoy for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, has said the violence means a second round of voting is now impossible and opposition leader Tsvangirai should be declared the winner.

During a visit to Zambia on Sunday, Frazer urged African leaders to put pressure on Mugabe. The UN Security Council was set to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis at a meeting on Tuesday.

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