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.