Zimbabwe opposition poised to retain assembly in vote recount

Partial results from a recount of votes cast in Zimbabwe's general elections showed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) poised to retain its majority in the lower house of parliament.

With 10 seats out of the 23 being recounted yet to be announced, no seat won by the MDC in the March 29 elections had gone to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) confirmed.

"There is no change," ZEC spokesman Utoile Silaingwana told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Two seats had remained with Zanu-PF and the MDC had retained 11.

Zanu-PF needs to regain nine seats to win back its majority in the 210-seat House of Assembly, where two factions of the MDC won 109 seats to Zanu-PF's 97.

The biggest MDC faction is led by Morgan Tsvangirai, who has also claimed victory over Mugabe in the presidential election.

Results from that election, also held on March 29, have still not been released but are also undergoing a partial recount. The ZEC said it would first announce the remaining results of the parliamentary recount before announcing the presidential results.

Violence against mostly opposition supporters has rocketed over the course of the four-week wait for the results of the presidential vote, in which Tsvangirai has claimed outright victory but Mugabe's party says produced no clear winner.

On Friday, armed police raided MDC headquarters in Harare, arresting 200 people, mostly internally displaced Zimbabweans who had sought refuge there from post-election violence in rural areas.

Police also combed the offices of an election observation NGO, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), for "subversive material." The network produced an estimate days after the vote, showing Mugabe trailing Tsvangirai in second place.

The crackdown came amid growing reports of revenge attacks by MDC supporters against Zanu-PF supporters in rural areas, where youth militia and soldiers loyal to Mugabe have waged a campaign of terror in recent weeks against people suspected of "voting wrongly."

Human Rights Watch said Friday it had documented several incidents of "retaliatory violence by MDC supporters" but that "the scope of these incidents bears no comparison to the widespread state-sponsored violence by ZANU-PF and its allies."

Amid growing international outcry over the violence, South Africa Friday called the United Nations Security Council's first session on the post-election impasse in Zimbabwe.

South Africa is currently chairing the council and its President Thabo Mbeki is southern Africa's mediator in Zimbabwe. Until now South Africa had been reluctant to discuss Zimbabwe at the UN level but Mbeki's own African National Congress party and the South African labour movement have become increasingly critical of his "quiet diplomacy" approach and urged more intervention.

The United States, which this week declared Tsvangirai the "clear winner" of the presidential election, had also called for the Security Council to take up the issue of violence in Zimbabwe.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, is in Africa for meetings with key leaders on the Zimbabwe issue.

After talks with officials in South Africa Thursday she met Friday with Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos. She is also scheduled to meet with Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa.

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