Zimbabwe opposition poised to retain parliament in recount

(dpa) - 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 13 seats out of the 23 being recounted 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) said.
Zanu-PF needs to regain nine seats to win back its majority in the 210-seat House of Assembly, where the MDC won 109 seats to Zanu-PF's 97 at the first count.
ZEC chairman George Chiweshe said Saturday afternoon that 18 constituencies had finished recounting but didn't divulge the extra results, merely saying that there had been "no major changes so far - just variation in figures."
Chiweshe said ZEC expected to finish the parliamentary recount by Monday and would "immediately thereafter" carry out the verification and collation of results from the partial recount of votes cast in the presidential election.
Zimbabweans have been waiting four weeks to know the outcome of the March 29 presidential election. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims he ended Mugabe's 28-year rule in the vote, a claim Zanu-PF rejects, saying neither won an outright majority and that a runoff is needed.
The delayed results have stoked tensions in Zimbabwe, where Zanu-PF youth militia and soldiers have gone on the rampage in recent weeks, attacking people suspected of "voting wrongly."
The MDC claimed five more of its members had been killed in these attacks in recent days bringing to 15, by its count, the number of party members who have been lost to the violence.
On Friday, armed police raided the party's headquarters in Harare, arresting over 200 people - mostly people displaced by violence in rural areas - saying they were suspected of involvement in post-poll attacks.
By Saturday most of the detainees with babies had been released, leaving around 250 people, including two MDC parliamentarians in custody, MDC lawyer Alec Muchadehama said. No charges had been brought against the detainees, he said.
Police also searched Friday the offices of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) for "subversive material." The independent election observation network produced an estimate days after the vote showing Mugabe trailing Tsvangirai in second place.
The crackdown comes amid the first independent reports of revenge attacks by frustrated MDC supporters against Zanu-PF supporters.
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."
As the international furore over the Zimbabwean impasse continues, South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations Security Council said the body would hold its first discussions on the post-election impasse in Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
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 and with Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, she was also scheduled to meet with Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa at the weekend.

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