Opposition sues Mugabe over alleged poll fraud

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The Independent Online

The Zimbabwean opposition launched a court challenge to President Robert Mugabe's controversial re-election last year, submitting 200 pages of allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation.

Jeremy Gauntlett, representing the Movement for Democratic Change, told Judge Ben Hlatshwayo at the High Court in Harare yesterday that the disputed poll was conducted in an environment that was "blatantly unconstitutional".

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, accuses Mr Mugabe of manipulating electoral laws to disenfranchise millions of Zimbabweans suspected of being MDC supporters, by orderinga reduction of polling stations in the MDC's urban strongholds. Mr Tsvangirai is also arguing that the Election Supervisory Commission had been filled by Mr Mugabe with his supporters.

Mr Mugabe has dismissed Mr Tsvangirai's petition as "ridiculous" and "over-ambitious". He insists that he won freely and fairly, and has vowed not to hold talks with Mr Tsvangirai to resolve Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis as long as the opposition leader challenges his re-election.

Judge Hlatshwayo, who was recently appointed after Mr Mugabe weeded out independent judges, is widely reported to be a beneficiary of President Mugabe's land seizures and has ruled against the MDC several times. He played a key role in drafting a constitution that would have entrenched Mr Mugabe's powers. The draft constitution was rejected in a national referendum in 2000 after a campaign by the MDC.