Zimbabwe electoral officials say results will take three more days

Other News Materials 20 April 2008 18:14 (UTC +04:00)

The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced Sunday that there would be a further three-day delay in the release of results from last month's elections amid reports of brutal intimidation of opposition supporters. ( dpa )

A recount of votes from last month's Zimbabwean elections, in which opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan Tsvangirai is claiming victory over incumbent President Robert Mugabe, started Saturday.

The spokesperson for the state-controlled commission, Utoile Silaigwana, said that a recount would take up to three days longer than previously indicated.

"It seems we have to revise that since in some centres - the actual recount started late as officers wanted to verify first. It took a lot of time and they started late (to do the recounting). So one can count out Saturday. It is likely to take more than three days in most areas."

MDC General Secretary Tendai Biti urged the international community to take action to help resolve the crisis.

"I call on the international community and the humanitarian agencies - especially the Red Cross - to intervene. There is a war in Zimbabwe," he said, speaking at a press briefing Sunday.

Biti said 3,000 families had been displaced in Zimbabwe up to Saturday. At least 400 MDC activists had been arrested, amongst them key administrative staff.

By Saturday, 500 people had been hospitalized and in every province, people had been forced to flee, he said.

"We are now being forced to be the Red Cross," he added.

Biti claimed that 10 people had been killed since the election and accused Magabe's party, Zanu-PF, of "deliberately" starving some parts of the population.

He also said that MDC officials had observed the recount and in eight constituencies, the ballot boxes were opened and not sealed.

The recount is of votes cast in 23 out of 210 constituencies nationwide, for president, the lower house of parliament (House of Assembly), Senate and local councils.

Tsvangirai's MDC won the March 29 House of Assembly vote but the official results of the presidential election held the same day have been withheld, causing consternation in Zimbabwe and abroad.

Tsvangirai claims he is the president-elect. Zanu-PF says neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won outright and that a runoff is required. An independent electoral observation NGO also estimated neither took more than 50 per cent, but put Tsvangirai very close.

The MDC vehemently opposed the recount, saying the presidential results should first be announced and that a recount of the parliamentary seats should have been requested within 48 hours of the election - but the High Court dismissed its objections.

In the House of Assembly the MDC took 109 seats to Zanu-PF's 97. Of the 23 seats being recounted the MDC won 21. If Zanu-PF regains nine of those it will win back parliament.

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.

In the absence of any intervention from South African President Thabo Mbeki, former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan has called on African nations to get more involved to help resolve the impasse in Zimbabwe and warned that the crisis could have an impact beyond Zimbabwe.

"The question which has been posed is: Where are the Africans? Where are their leaders and the countries in the region, what are they doing?

"It is a rather dangerous situation. It's a serious crisis with impact beyond Zimbabwe."

Kenya's new Prime Minister Raila Odinga appealed for African countries to act with speed to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe, reports said Sunday.

The Daily Nation newspaper quoted Odinga as saying that the "age of dictators was long gone" and that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should not interfere with the release of election results which have been withheld for three weeks.

"I sympathise with the people of Zimbabwe and I will play a key role in letting him unite his people. African heads of state should use force if necessary to remove people like Mugabe from power, especially those who do not want to respect the people's decision through the ballot," he said.