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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Insists No Runoff Before First-Round Verification

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai insisted Wednesday that he will not face off against President Robert Mugabe in a presidential runoff election before the first round results issued by the country's electoral commission have been verified.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said late last week that Tsvangirai took 47.9% of the vote in the March 29 election, compared with 53.2% for Mr. Mugabe, concluding that a runoff election would have to be held as no candidate topped 50%.

Tsvangirai also urged that the United Nations dispatch a fact-finding mission to look into the wave of political violence that has hit rural communities since the elections, in which his Movement for Democratic Change posted significant gains against the Mr. Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF, taking control of parliament's lower house.

Opposition officials and civic organizations have charged that the violence is backed by ZANU-PF and the government, including the army, a charge which Rural Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mr. Mugabe's election agent, disputes.

Mnangagwa says the opposition itself is responsible for the violence. The government has made the same case to envoys and delegations seeking to resolve the crisis.

Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that as he has stated since the runoff was mooted, he does not believe a second round is needed.

Meanwhile, both ZANU-PF and the MDC are contesting the outcome of parliamentary results in a total of 105 constituencies. The state run-Herald newspaper said ZANU-PF is contesting results in 53 constituencies, while the MDC is challenging results in 52. But other sources said the MDC is contesting results in 60 constituencies.

The Herald reported that Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has had to name 17 more electoral judges to handle the overwhelming number of petitions.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA that ZANU-PF should not be challenging the results because the electoral process was entirely controlled by the ruling party. He charged that ZANU-PF is merely seeking to delay the opening of parliament, now dominated by the opposition for the first time in the history of the nation.

Political analyst Chido Makunike told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the electoral petitions render the electoral process null and void as it is clear neither party is ready to accept the outcome of the March 29 ballots.

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