Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Sunday, 13 April 2008 12:22 UK

Legal fight over Zimbabwe recount

Zimbabweans watch President Robert Mugabe on TV in Harare (12.04.08)
President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF lost its parliamentary majority

Zimbabwe's opposition says it will mount a legal challenge to the election commission's order for a ballot recount in last month's contested polls.

Votes from 23 constituencies will be recounted on Saturday, local media say.

A change in the parliamentary result by nine seats could see President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party regain its lost majority in the assembly.

A key minister said the army would not be used against the people, despite opposition claims of intimidation.

Two weeks after the elections, official results of the presidential race have not been released.

They had custody of the ballot boxes for two weeks and they must have stuffed them with their votes
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it won the presidency and has accused President Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, of a de facto coup and campaign of violence ahead of a possible run-off vote.

But Information Minister Sikhoanyiso Ndlovu told the Sunday Mail that "the army will not fight against Zimbabweans because it is there to protect them".

He said there was "no military junta" in the country, soldiers were in their barracks and were not fully needed in "such a peaceful environment".

'Vote rigging'

MDC lawyer Selby Hwacha said the party planned to fight in court the recount announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Secretary General Tendai Biti, SADC summit, Zambia
Opposition leaders fear a vote recount would be fixed

"We will see how they play it out, but we will challenge it," he said.

Accepting a recount would be "accepting rigged results," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters news agency.

"They had custody of the ballot boxes for two weeks and they must have stuffed them with their votes."

ZEC chairman George Chiweshe said the results from 22 districts had been disputed by the ruling Zanu-PF party, while the MDC contested the count in one constituency.

The recount will be of all presidential, parliamentary, senate and council votes cast in the 29 March elections in the affected constituencies.

Regional pressure

The developments followed a call from southern African leaders for the still unpublished presidential poll results to be speedily announced.

This is a major improvement, SADC has acquitted itself fairly well
Tendai Biti

After a summit in Zambia aimed at breaking the deadlock in Zimbabwe, Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders also urged all parties to accept the election results and asked South African President Thabo Mbeki to continue his role as SADC's "facilitator on Zimbabwe".

Mr Mugabe declined an invitation to the summit of the 14-nation body, sending a delegation of ministers instead.

MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti described the summit outcome as a "major improvement".

Food queue in Harare, 11.04.08
Zimbabwe's ailing economy means food queues are common

But he called on Mr Mbeki to show "more vigour, more openness and a complete abandonment of the policy of quiet diplomacy".

According to results released so far, Zanu-PF has lost its majority in the House of Assembly for the first time since independence in 1980, winning 97 seats against the MDC's 99 in the 210-seat chamber. A smaller MDC faction has 10 seats.

In the Senate, or upper house, Zanu-PF and the combined opposition have 30 seats each.

The opposition says its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won more than the 50% of the vote necessary to avoid a second round in the presidential contest, citing returns posted outside polling stations.

Under President Mugabe, a drawn-out economic collapse in Zimbabwe has seen hyper-inflation, massive unemployment and the departure of hundreds of thousands of people.

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Zimbabwe's opposition remain defiant


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