Zimbabwe : Court order to release results could be rejected by Mugabe

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The High Court in Zimbabwe was Monday expected to make an eagerly-awaited ruling on an opposition petition to force the country’s electoral body to release the results of a presidential vote held more than two weeks ago.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which claims it won the poll, had sought a court order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to publish the results of the 29 March presidential election.

The vote outcome is being withheld, at the instruction of the government, which claims its candidate, President Robert Mugabe, was prejudiced through bribery and cheating.

High Court judge Tendai Uchena said last week, at the close of hearings into the case, that he would make a ruling Monday afternoon.

He is widely expected to give the order for the release of the results, but the authorities have already indicated this may not be obeyed.

ZEC, at the insistence of the government, has announced plans instead to recount votes in 23 constituencies where Mugabe maintains he was prejudiced of votes.

The opposition is opposing the recounts on grounds that ballots may now have been tampered with and stuffed with government votes.

Observers say legally, the time for recounts has expired, and that the MDC has a solid case.

The party is also arguing, validly, that recounts cannot be carried out on a result which is not known.

The prolonged delay in the announcement of results has bred political tensions which many fear could erupt into violence.

This prompted a weekend summit of Southern African leaders in Zambia, where Zimbabwe authorities were urged to release the results of the election without further delay, and to accept whatever outcome of the poll.

In the meantime, the MDC has called for a nationwide general strike Tuesday to press for the results which it claims the authorities were unwilling to stomach because Mugabe lost for the first time in his 28-year rule.

Though the party had also planned to hold rallies to demand the results, police have banned such gatherings countrywide, citing security reasons.

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