Zimbabwe election commission allows limited recount

(dpa) - Nearly two weeks after Zimbabwe's elections, the election commission was reported Thursday to have accepted a recount of five of the country's election districts, despite opposition insistence that this was unconstitutional.

South African radio quoted Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying the recount would go ahead as demanded by the Zanu-PF party of current President Robert Mugabe.

This has challenged its defeat in elections to the 210-seat House of Assembly (lower house of parliament), claiming the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) bribed voters.

The recount decision produced a furious response from MDC General Secretary Tendai Biti, who declared: "They never planned to give MDC a chance. We are extremely concerned by attempts of president Mugabe to reproduce himself."

Biti also warned that "there is violence in literally every district" of the country. Mugabe, he said, was planning a "constitutional coup d'etat" through intimidation and violence.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had preemptively claimed outright victory in the March 29 presidential elections - a claim Mugabe's party rejects as "wishful thinking."

Tsvangirai hinted Wednesday he was open to forming a unity government with elements of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, which was defeated by Tsvangirai's MDC party in elections to the lower house of parliament.

Although official results of the presidential election have not been released, the Mugabe government rejected forming a government of national unity, saying only election results could direct the formation of government.

The High Court in Harare on Wednesday deferred until Monday a decision in the MDC's urgent application for a court order forcing the state-controlled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the presidential results.

South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad called on the Electoral Commission to explain the reason behind the delay, saying it would help relieve tensions within Zimbabwe, according to the SAPA news agency.

"It's not time to lose patience," Pahad told reports in Pretoria.

Tsvangirai says he took 50.3 per cent of the vote but a non-profit election observation organization estimated that, based on a sample of the results, neither he nor Mugabe took more than the 50 per cent plus one vote needed to avert a second round.

Meanwhile, a group of local aid and human rights groups called for a nationwide campaign "peace and respect for the voice of the people."

The group said in a statement that what they termed Zimbabwe's policy of silence has brought forth social and economic paralysis.

On Wednesday, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa in his capacity as current chairman of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community called for an emergency meeting of southern African leaders to be held Saturday to discuss ways of resolving the post-election impasse in Zimbabwe.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is to decide whether to met with Tsvangirai and attend the SADC meeting Zambia, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Pahad said.

"It is our view that the president should attend the summit if his programme allows," Pahad said.

The SAPA news agency quoted Jack Redden, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, that the number of Zimbabweans entering South African following the elections has been "steady," but there has been no sign that applications for asylum have increased.

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