Zim to verify poll results amid turmoil
Zimbabwe’s electoral commission was to present candidates with initial results from a March 29 poll on Thursday, in a move that could force President Robert Mugabe into a run-off against his arch rival.
More than a month after polling day, the four candidates who stood for president on March 29 have been asked to attend a verification meeting from at noon where they will be shown the commission’s initial tally of results.
The meeting comes a day after sources close to the electoral commission said that Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was ahead of Mugabe in the count but with no outright majority.
Tsvangirai, whose party has also wrested control of Parliament from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, has already proclaimed himself the outright victor of the ballot and has threatened to boycott any run-off against the 84-year-old incumbent.
Commission chairperson George Chiweshe said the candidates were expected to present their own tally of results at the get-together which was designed to reach a common agreement.
It was not immediately clear whether the commission would make its figures public in the absence of an immediate agreement.
“It was an agreement with the candidates that they will do their own tallies and we do ours, then when we get together we compare the results,” Chiweshe told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“Where we don’t agree, we will pull out every relevant document to ensure we have the same figures. Once we agree then we check out our additions ... and at some stage we have to agree.”
If there is no agreement among the candidates, the commission may then have to sift through ballot papers yet again and thus extend the wait for results which has already dragged on for nearly five weeks.
Given Tsvangirai’s proclamations of victory and Zanu-PF’s assertion that a run-off is inevitable, agreement appears unlikely.
Sources close to the commission told AFP on Wednesday that Tsvangirai was on course to get between 48% to 50%, without giving the figures for Mugabe or his former finance minister Simba Makoni who came a distant third.
Were such a figure to be confirmed, it would present Tsvangirai with a huge decision on whether to contest a run-off in a contest he feels he has already won or hand victory on a plate to Mugabe by boycotting a second round.
Chiweshe confirmed it would not be enough for Tsvangirai to simply get more votes than Mugabe.
“For one to be declared a winner he needs to have garnered more than 50% of the valid votes and if none of them manages that feat we go for a second round of polling.”
Down, but not out
A first round defeat will be a major blow to Mugabe who has ruled the former British colony uninterrupted since independence in 1980.
Already reeling from the loss of Parliament, it would leave him at his weakest point since coming to power.
However his continued control of the security apparatus has led the MDC to conclude he will simply intimidate voters into giving him a sixth term of office at a run-off which should take place within three weeks of the results.
Zimbabwe and international rights groups say an upsurge in violence is designed to instill fears in MDC ranks. The opposition claims 20 of its supporters have been killed since polling day.
Tsvangirai is currently out of the country, trying to drum up diplomatic support, after one of Mugabe’s chief lieutenants accused him of treason.
He was due to be represented at the meeting with the commission by senior aide Chris Mbanga while Mugabe was also expected to send one of his ministers.
Mbanga was sceptical that Thursday’s meeting would bring an end to the deadlock despite increasingly loud calls from the international community for the results to be announced.
“It may take one day, it may take two days, it may take one week, perhaps one month,” he said.
Mugabe’s Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa refused to comment about the possible outcome of the election.
“Only after the verification process will we be able to talk about who got what percent,” he said.
Makoni is widely expected to back Tsvangirai in any second round. A fourth candidate, Langton Towungana, is unlikely to get even 1%. - AFP