Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Chamisa files poll challenge, presidential inauguration deferred
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Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, filed a Constitutional Court challenge on Friday against President Emmerson Mnangagwa's election victory, halting the incumbent’s inauguration set for Sunday.
Chamisa filed a challenge against the official results of Zimbabwe’s July 30 election, according to a Twitter posting on Friday. "Our legal team successfully filed our court papers. We have a good case and cause!!," Chamisa tweeted.
Our legal team successfully filed our court papers.We have a good case and cause!!Nelson Chamisa (@nelsonchamisa) August 10, 2018
Chamisa’s MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) alleges that Mnangagwa's slender victory in Zimbabwe's first election since the ousting of Robert Mugabe was rigged by the ruling ZANU-PF party and the election commission.
Mnangagwa, who is seeking to reverse Zimbabwe's economic isolation and attract desperately needed foreign investment, had vowed the elections would turn a page on Mugabe's repressive 37-year rule.
But following the MDC challenge filed in court, Mnangagwa's inauguration – which was planned for Sunday -- was immediately postponed until the court makes its ruling, which is due within 14 days.
International monitors largely praised the conduct of the election itself, although EU observers said that Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe ally, benefitted from an "un-level playing field" and some voter intimidation.
Mnangagwa won the presidential race with 50.8 percent of the vote -- just enough to avoid a run-off against the MDC's Nelson Chamisa, who scored 44.3 percent.
Chamisa has called the election results as "falsified and inflated" to ensure Mnangagwa won.
Party lawyer Thanbani Mpofu last week said that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's figures "grossly, mathematically fail to tally".
He said the party had evidence "for the purposes, not just of mounting a credible and sustainable challenge, but that will yield a vacation of the entire process".
Courts favour ruling party?
Analysts say that the legal challenge has little chance of success given the courts' historic tilt towards the ZANU-PF, which has ruled since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.
But the court action could delay Mnangagwa's inauguration, scheduled for Sunday.
The polls' aftermath has been marred by allegations of a crackdown on opposition members, including beatings and arrests.
On August 1, soldiers opened fire on MDC protesters, killing six people and sparking an international outcry.
Also on Friday, lawyers for senior opposition figure Tendai Biti asked judges to throw out charges against him over the protests against alleged election fraud, in a case raising further international concern about the new government.
Diplomats and election observers were present at the court hearing in Harare after Biti fled to Zambia but was handed back to Zimbabwean police despite claiming asylum.
He faces charges of inciting the protests last week by proclaiming victory for the opposition.
"Zimbabwe faces a terrible threat from a group of people that has no respect for the law," Biti, who was granted bail Thursday, told the court.
Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter that Biti was released after he intervened personally in the case.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, established under the 2013 constitution, on Friday released a damning report into the post-election crackdown.
It said it had received numerous complaints of intimidation, often by men in military uniform, of voters thought to have backed the opposition.
"The ZHRC has established that there is hunting down and harassment of polling agents for independent candidates and opposition political parties," it said.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the EU, US, Canadian and Australian missions to Zimbabwe urged authorities to guarantee Biti's safety and human rights.
They said they were "deeply disturbed by continuing reports that opposition supporters are being targeted by members of the Zimbabwean security forces".
The president, the ZANU-PF party and the electoral commission have denied all charges of cheating.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)