Zimbabwe MDC leader claims victory

Ruling party rejects claims it is recruiting a militia to ensure win in any run-off.

    Tsvangirai is attempting to become only the second president of Zimbabwe in 28 years [AFP]
    The announcement came after his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, lodged a petition with a high court demanding immediate release of presidential election results.

    Hearing postponed
    But the court on Saturday postponed hearing of the petition to Sunday, according to Alec Muchadehama, MDC's lawyer.
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    "The matter has been postponed until tomorrow. I am concerned about the postponement but we will wait for tomorrow," he told reporters.
    The MDC announced its legal challenge on Friday, as Mugabe, the current president and Zanu-PF leader, said he would contest a run-off vote.
    At the news conference, Tsvangirai also assured Mugabe that he would guarantee his safety in the aftermath of the elections.
    "I want to say to President Robert Mugabe: 'Please rest your mind, the new Zimbabwe guarantees your safety,'" he said.
    Mugabe's regime has been accused of widespread human rights violations and Tsvangirai was assaulted by the security services last year while trying to stage an anti-government demonstration.
    Run-off possible
    A week after the presidential vote, Zimbabwe's electoral commission has not posted official results despite mounting international pressure.
    The MDC had previously claimed that Tsvangirai won more than the 50 per cent of votes needed to secure the presidency in last Saturday's election.
    But Zanu-PF, the ruling party, says that neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won more than 50 per cent of the vote.

    "It's definite there will be a re-run. We are down but not out," Didymus Mutasa, Zanu-PF secretary for administration, said on Friday after a meeting of the party's politburo.
    "Absolutely the candidate will be [Robert Gabriel] Mugabe, who else would it be other than our dear old man?" he said.

    Zanu-PF on Saturday dismissed Tsvangirai's accusations that the it was planning to do all it could to ensure Mugabe was in power after any run-off.

    'Peace-loving party'

    "We are a peace-loving party and the people of Zimbabwe will not forgive anyone who foments violence," Patrick Chinamasa, Zanu-PF spokesman, said.

    Mugabe has signalled that he is willing to enter
    into a run-off vote for the presidency [AFP]

    Tsvangirai said that the ruling party was recruiting militias to carry out a retribution campaign ahead of the possible second round vote.
    "Tsvangirai also knows he will not win in the run-off. That is why he is trying to avoid it by claiming victory," Chinamasa said.

    State television has reported that Mugabe supporters had seized one of Zimbabawe's few remaining white-owned farms in reaction to reports that whites were returning to reoccupy their land.

    The incident came after the country's so-called war veterans - many of whom were born after independence in 1980 - vowed to occupt all the remaining white-owned farms in Masvingo province.

    George Shire, a political analyst based in London, told Al Jazeera that the veterans position was "not an empty threat".
    "The land issue is the central emotive conflictual issue in Zimbabwean politics... It is something that has dominated for the last century and which has influenced government ideologies," he said.

    "This is not something that happened centuries ago - these are people who have lost their families, lost their relatives, lost their friends in a war about land."

    Global pressure
    Zimbabwe's opposition has called for international pressure to force Mugabe to accept defeat, fearing the president was seeking to exact revenge.
    Thabo Mbeki, the South African president viewed as a power broker in the region, said on Saturday that the situation in Zimbabwe was "manageable".
    "I think the situation so far is manageable," Mbeki said on the  sidelines of an intergovernmental summit in Britain. 
    "I think there is time to wait. Let's see the outcome of the  election results.
    "If there is a re-run of the presidential election, let's see what comes out of that. I think that is the correct way to go."
    Zanu-PF has claimed it has evidence that the opposition MDC had bribed electoral officials in parallel parliamentary elections, and said it would contest the results.
    Mutasa said the party planned to contest "16 or more seats", potentially enough for it to overtake the MDC.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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