Partial recount of votes in Zimbabwe election underway

April 19th, 2008 - 4:41 pm ICT by admin  

Harare/Johannesburg, April 19 (DPA) A controversial recount of votes cast in last month’s Zimbabwean elections, in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is claiming victory over incumbent President Robert Mugabe, got underway Saturday in the presence of regional observers. The recount is of votes cast in 23 out of 210 constituencies, both for president and the lower house of parliament (House of Assembly).

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change won the parliamentary vote but the official results of the presidential election, also held March 29, have not yet been released.

Tsvangirai claims he won the presidency. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party says neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won outright so that a runoff is required. An independent electoral observation NGO also estimated neither took more than 50 percent, but put Tsvangirai very close.

The state-controlled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said the recount was at the behest of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in 22 constituencies and the MDC in one but the MDC had vehemently opposed the recount, trying, but failing to get the High Court to block it.

Zanu-PF, which took 97 seats to the MDC’s 109 in the election, needs to take back just nine seats to regain its parliamentary majority. The presidential recount is expected to support Zanu-PF’s call for a runoff but it was unclear whether the MDC would participate.

Tsvangirai has swung between rejecting a second round and saying he would partake, if international observers were present to ensure it was free and fair.

Observers from the 14-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) were dispatched to the recount.

The three-week wait for the results of the polls, in which Mugabe is seeking to extend his 28-year rule by another five, has sown anxiety in Zimbabwe and abroad amid MDC claims that military hardliners are calling the shots in Harare.

The sudden flight of a Chinese ship carrying arms for Zimbabwe from Durban harbour in South Africa Friday evening has fuelled fears of violence.

The An Yue Jiang lifted anchor after a Durban court ruled that its cargo of weapons and ammunition could be offloaded, but not transported across South Africa to Zimbabwe. The ship was headed for Mozambique Saturday, South African radio reported.

The cargo includes three million bullets for AK-47 rifles, mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to journalists who saw the shipping manifest.

Dock workers had refused to offload the cargo, citing concerns over the tensions in Zimbabwe.

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