· Zanu-PF moves to reverse parliamentary defeat
· Regional leaders to debate vote at emergency summit
- The Guardian,
- Friday April 11 2008
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change says it will not take part in a run-off presidential election, in a move that may provide the pretext for Robert Mugabe to extend his 28-year rule.
The MDC urged regional leaders holding an emergency summit tomorrow to tell Mugabe to give up power immediately.
Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary-general, said the failure to release the election results nearly a fortnight after the vote amounted to a "constitutional coup d'etat".
"We won the presidential election hands down without the need of a run-off. We will not participate in a run-off," Biti said in Johannesburg.
"You cannot have a situation where 300 hours after an election the result has still to be announced."
The MDC's own calculations give its presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, 50.3% of the vote, only just above the threshold for an outright victory. The ruling Zanu-PF says neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai won a clear majority, although no official figures have been released.
Biti also said there is "evidence of the regime trying to reverse the gains we made in parliament" after Zimbabwe's election commission agreed to recount votes in five seats lost by Zanu-PF, and will consider reversing the results in seven others, in a move that could see the MDC stripped of its newly-won majority.
Last week Zanu-PF lost control of parliament for the first time since independence 28 years ago. It won 97 seats compared with 109 for the opposition.
Biti called the recounts "illegal" because the law requires they be within 48 hours of the original count. He also accused Mugabe of unleashing a wave of violence to intimidate voters into supporting him if another round of elections is held.
"It's quite clear Mugabe is trying to create the violence we saw in [the presidential election in] 2002 in which the people's will was stolen," he said.
Asked about reports that Tsvangirai, who is touring the region to drum up support ahead of the summit, was seeking asylum in another country, Biti said he thought it was not safe for Tsvangirai to return to Zimbabwe but it was for him to decide.
"Quite clearly the situation at home is volatile. The lives of all pro-democracy actors are not safe," he said.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are planning to attend tomorrow's meeting of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) called by the Zambian president, Levy Mwanawasa.
Zambian state radio said Mwanawasa had planned to send a delegation of former heads of state to Zimbabwe but decided to hold an urgent summit instead because the situation had grown so serious.
Biti said the MDC wants the region's leaders to press Mugabe to resign.
"We hope the message from that meeting will be clear to President Robert Mugabe, that he must step down ... and that the people's victory should not be derailed," he said.
However, the SADC has so far been unwilling to challenge the Zimbabwean leader despite the impact of his country's crisis on its neighbours.
The opposition's concerns have been heightened by the closure of the Zimbabwe electoral commission's "national command centre" to oversee the balloting, and the moving of the recounts and collating of figures to the commission's Harare headquarters, to which opposition monitors have been denied access.
The chairman, George Chiweshe, said the commission had "scaled down" because most of the counting is done.
But Simba Makoni, a rebel Zanu-PF presidential candidate who came a distant third according to unofficial results, said he is suspicious after being prevented from observing the compilation of results.
"I am quite lost," said Makoni. "There is no more work taking place in that place ... and it gets me very worried and I believe other political contestants are similarly worried that it is taking so long and why it is taking so long is not known."
Makoni said he asked to be allowed to observe the counting process but was refused.
"I regret to say that I wasn't accorded that opportunity," he said.