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Presidential Runoff Unacceptable, Says Zimbabwe Opposition Leader

  • Correspondents

One week after Zimbabweans went to the polls to select a new president, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose grouping of the Movement for Democratic Change says he won the election by a narrow margin, told reporters that the runoff election pushed by the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe is not acceptable.

"A runoff is a foreign, back-door approach to reverse the people's victory," Tsvangirai told a news conference at the Meikles Hotel in Harare where his MDC formation has set up election headquarters. "The MDC and its presidential candidate won this election and they will not accept the subversion of the people's victory."

Charging that Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF were preparing a "war" against the people in an effort to stay in power, Tsvangirai proposed one-on-one talks with the president to negotiate a way out of what threatened to become a long political standoff.

"ZANU-PF is preparing a war against the people," Tsvangirai told a news conference. "In the runoff, violence will be the weapon. It is therefore unfair and unreasonable for President Mugabe to call a runoff." The ZANU-PF politburo on Friday endorsed the president's participation in a runoff, launching a second-round campaign.

The state-run Herald newspaper declared," ZANU-PF has readied itself for battle."

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission released final senate election results later in the day showing ZANU-PF with 30 seats, Tsvangirai's MDC formation with 24, and a rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara with 6 seats. Whoever becomes president will effectively control 15 seats with another 18 going to traditional leaders.

Armed policemen and operatives of the Central Intelligence Organization tried to bar MDC lawyers from entering the Harare high court for a hearing on a request that the court order the commission to release presidential elections results. lawyers Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni, were later allowed to enter the building after lawyers for the electoral commission arrived.

Muchadehama told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that police armed with AK-47 assault rifles threatened to shoot him and Makoni.

South African President Thabo Mbeki said the international community should be patient and wait for Zimbabwe’s election results before intervening. He told reporters the situation was “manageable,” so there is time to see if a runoff is necessary.

Mr. Mbeki was set to meet Sunday in London with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the margins of a conference on governance.

For perspective on Mr. Mbeki's diplomatic stance, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye turned to independent political analyst Innocent Sithole in London.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Friday that the continued delay in releasing presidential results increased suspicion of fraud, as VOA's David Gollust reported.

Human Rights Watch meanwhile called upon African leaders to use their influence to prevent a post-election crackdown in Zimbabwe. The watchdog organization said the arrests in recent days of foreign journalists and police intrusions into the campaign offices of the Tsvangirai MDC formation raise concerns of mounting repression.

Human Rights Watch urged the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to publicly lobby Harare to halt such abuses and asked the organizations to send monitors to assess the environment as presidential election results emerge.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Carolyn Norris told reporter Patience Rusere that although the group was disappointed at the performance of African first-round election observers, such observers are the only ones with access to Zimbabwe.

Former farmers dismissed a report by the state-controlled Herald newspaper saying they want to evict resettled black farmers. The newspaper said former white owners of farms in Chiredzi, Mashonaland East Province, and Chegutu, Mashonaland West, have threatened new farmers with eviction following opposition electoral gains.

War Veterans Association Chairman Jabulani Sibanda has also charged that former white farmers who left the country are back hoping to reclaim their old farms.

Executive Director John Worsely-Worswick of Justice for Agriculture told reporter Carole Gombakomba that while many white Zimbabwean farmers would like to recover their farms, this will have to be done within the confines of the law.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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