Zimbabwe court rejects bid to release poll result

Monday 14 April 2008 15:42

Zimbabwe's High Court today refused to order the immediate release of delayed results from the 29 March presidential election, in a major blow to the opposition MDC.

Rejecting a Movement for Democratic Change application to force the electoral commission to release the result, Judge Tendai Uchena said: "I dismiss the case with costs."

The MDC says its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, defeated President Robert Mugabe in the vote, ending his 28-year rule.

The MDC went to the High Court after a long delay in issuing the result by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Judge Uchena did not explain his judgement, but said the court would make it available by tomorrow.

The ZEC opposed the MDC's application and says it is still counting and verifying the votes.

Zimbabwe's economy is in ruins, with the world's worst rate of hyper-inflation, but the judgement appeared to delay even further the time when the population will find out whether Mugabe's almost three decades in power are over.

The opposition says Mugabe is holding back the presidential result to allow him time to prepare a violent response to his biggest electoral setback, when the ruling ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament in a parallel vote on 29 March.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters: "Naturally we are very disappointed because I think we have a very strong case. We are going to decide the way forward after meeting our lawyers, but in our view the release of those results is very, very urgent."

MDC lawyers said they would decide whether to appeal after studying the High Court judgement. The opposition has called an indefinite general strike for tomorrow to protest against the delay.

Southern African leaders said after a summit in Lusaka at the weekend that the election result should be released "expeditiously".

Further delays are expected because of legal manoeuvres and a recount of 23 constituencies ordered by the ZEC for next Saturday. The MDC is also challenging that decision in court.

ZANU-PF says neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won the necessary absolute majority in the presidential vote and a run-off will be necessary.

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