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Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 12:33 UK

Zimbabwe run-off remains in doubt

A Zimbabwean reads the state-owned daily The Herald in Harare, 3 May 2008.
Zimbabwe's presidency remains in the balance

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has ended a meeting in Harare without deciding whether to contest a run-off presidential vote.

Incumbent President Robert Mugabe would win automatically if MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai ruled out taking part.

On Friday the MDC rejected results from the first round on 29 March that gave Mr Tsvangirai the most votes but not outright victory.

Mr Mugabe confirmed he would stand in a run-off. No date has been set.

Timing

Zimbabwean Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told the BBC a second round could be held within three weeks.

election results

But he added that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) might also decide to delay the vote.

"It is again provided for in the constitution that it has to be done within 12 months. But as far as I can see from this, they're going to announce the run-off anytime from now."

On Friday, the MDC said it had been cheated of thousands of votes as the commission announced that Mr Tsvangirai had gained 47.9% of the votes - against 43.2% for Mr Mugabe.

The party now faces a dilemma, says the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg.

It can boycott the run-off and hand victory to President Mugabe, or it can take part - under protest - in the knowledge that the violence and intimidation witnessed over the past month has created a far tougher electoral environment, our correspondent says.

Undecided

After a high-level meeting on Saturday, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said no decisions had been reached so far.

MDC party rejects electoral results

"There are issues that have to be clarified," he told Reuters news agency.

The MDC says the government delayed the result for more than a month in order to orchestrate a campaign of violence to deter opposition supporters in a run-off.

Although the result of the election is inconclusive, it represents a humiliation for 84-year-old President Mugabe, our correspondent adds.

The MDC on Saturday reiterated its claim that it won the election outright.

"We are convinced that the run-off is unnecessary," said Thokozani Khupe, the movement's its deputy leader.

However she also appeared to leave open the possibility of a second round, saying: "In the unlikely event of a run-off, the MDC will once again romp to victory by an even bigger margin."


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