/ 2 May 2008

Zimbabwe opposition disputes electoral figure

Zimbabwe’s opposition on Friday disputed results of a March 29 presidential election released by electoral officials, saying opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had the outright majority needed to avoid a run-off.

The official data showed Tsvangirai had 47,9% of the vote, beating President Robert Mugabe with 43,2%, but short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off ballot with the veteran leader, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says Tsvangirai got 50,3% of the vote.

”We don’t agree with their figures. They will have to prove us wrong. We are now going into the verification of those figures,” said Chris Mbanga, a representative of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Election officials released the figures to candidates on Thursday at the start of a verification process after a month-long delay to results that had raised fears of widespread bloodshed in the country suffering economic ruin.

The MDC has accused the government of launching a campaign of violence and intimidation ahead of the possible second round and said 20 of its members had been killed by pro-government militias.

The government denies carrying out a violent campaign and accuses the MDC of political attacks.

Tsvangirai has suggested he could still take part in a second round if international observers led by the United Nations monitored the process. The main international observer group at the first round was from Zimbabwe’s neighbours.

If Tsvangirai refused to take part in a run-off, Mugabe would be declared the winner, according to election rules. A run-off should be held within 21 days of a result being announced. – Reuters