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Zimbabwe Opposition Demands Presidential Vote Check With Regional Oversight

Zimbabwean opposition presidential contender Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change said Saturday that it was not absolutely opposed to taking part in a runoff election called by electoral authorities, but said that before doing so it wanted international verification of the first-round results.

Senior party officials expressed confidence, however, that Tsvangirai would prevail in a head-to-head runoff against President Robert Mugabe. Failing to contest a runoff, moreover, would hand Mr. Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF a victory by default.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Authority on Friday cut short a verification process, releasing results showing Tsvangirai with a plurality of votes in the March 29 election at 47.9%, ahead of President Mugabe's 43.2% share but short of a majority over 50%. The MDC insists Tsvangirai polled just over 50% of ballots so no runoff is needed - and that in any case surging violence in rural areas precludes holding a run-off.

In any case, MDC officials said after a meeting Saturday of the Tsvangirai grouping's national executive, the opposition wanted a full verification of the first-round results under the scrutiny of the Southern African Development Community.

Tsvangirai MDC Vice President Thokozani Khupe told journalists in Harare that SADC should intervene in the crisis by overseeing a proper verification of the count, as correspondent Peter Nthambe of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

MDC Spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu that although the party considers a run-off unnecessary, it is confident Tsvangirai would win in that case.

Offering perspective, Programs Manager Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that the country urgently needs to resolve the election crisis to address its needs.

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