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Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 18:45 UK

Zimbabwe poll petition rejected

Police monitor the situation at the High Court in Harare on Monday 14 April 2008
Security was tight outside the court ahead of the ruling

Zimbabwe's High Court has ruled against an opposition demand for the electoral commission to immediately release last month's presidential election results.

The judge said the outcome could not be published until reports of anomalies in some areas had been investigated.

The opposition said violence was escalating ahead of a possible run-off vote and that one of its poll agents had been killed by Zanu-PF militia.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he beat President Robert Mugabe outright.

Electoral officials had said they could not release the result until after a recount of the 29 March poll in some seats, amid reports of irregularities.

'Ridiculous'

Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Nelson Chamisa told the BBC the ruling in the capital Harare was "absolutely ridiculous and incredible".

The party also said one of their election agents had been killed at his home on Saturday evening, after being beaten and stabbed by Zanu-PF supporters.

A burnt farm hut in Centenary, 220km north of Harare, Friday 11 April 2008
Zanu-PF militia have allegedly razed huts in opposition areas

Mr Chamisa said since the poll some 200 MDC elections agents and activists had been beaten up by ruling party activists attempting to intimidate them before any run-off.

About 1,000 people have reportedly been displaced by political violence at Manicaland province in eastern Zimbabwe.

Amid ongoing tension, MDC leader Mr Tsvangirai is basing himself for now in neighbouring Botswana.

The opposition vowed to press on with plans for an open-ended nationwide strike on Tuesday.

MDC Vice-President Thokhozani Khupe was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "We have called for a mass stay-in until the results are released."

BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says with four out of five Zimbabweans jobless, widespread fear of the security forces and rallies banned, it is not clear how much impact the strike will have.

'Agitating'

Police accused the MDC of "agitating for violence" through the strike plans, in a statement quoted by Reuters news agency, and warned of severe consequences.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF welcomed Monday's ruling, denying the court was biased towards the ruling party.

Ballot box in Zimbabwe
The contents of Zimbabwe's ballot boxes are still a matter of dispute

Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, said: "How can you force the electoral commission to release results when it is not ready?"

Independent tallies suggested Mr Tsvangirai won the poll, but took less than 50% of the vote, meaning he would have to face a run-off.

The electoral commission says a recount of presidential and parliamentary results in 23 constituencies will start on Saturday.

Zanu-PF wanted a recount in 22 constituencies, while an MDC recount request in one seat has also been granted.

Zanu-PF has lost its parliamentary its majority for the first time in Mr Mugabe's 28-year rule.

But it could be recovered if the ruling party is awarded just nine of the 23 seats subject to a recount.

Southern African leaders called for the election results to be announced "expeditiously" during a summit at the weekend in Zambia.

But it did not urge Mr Mugabe to step aside, as the MDC had wished.


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Police stand guard at Zimbabwe's High Court



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