Zimbabwe run-off could take up to a year

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Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has said it will soon decide the date for a second round of presidential elections, amid mounting tension as the opposition – first-round victors – mulled over whether it would take part.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who says its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the March 29 election outright, is set to announce today whether it will contest a run-off which it has insisted is unnecessary.

The former unionist had said previously there was “no need for a
run-off” but he may take part in a second round if international observers were present.

However it is unlikely that Tsvangirai will boycott the run-off as this would leave incumbent Mugabe the automatic winner.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said it would meet “as soon as possible” to decide on a date for the run-off, which has to take place
within 21 days of the publication of results.

“I cannot state exactly when the run-off will be held but I can confirm
that the poll will be held on a date to be announced by the commission,”
ZEC chairperson George Chiweshe said.

Election officials on Friday said there was no outright winner of the March 29 election, with Tsvangirai getting 47.9% and Mugabe getting 43.2%.

Thokozani Khupe, deputy leader of the MDC, speaking after a meeting of senior party leaders on Saturday, said: “In the unlikely event of a run-off, the MDC will once again romp to victory by an even bigger margin.”

The ruling Zanu-PF accepted the results but said the polls were fraught with electoral fraud, including vote-buying and bribery of election officials to count votes in favour of the opposition.

Officials from Mugabe’s ruling party have said the 84-year-old will contest the run-off.

Deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, said at the weekend that
the run-off might take place in three weeks, but could take up to a year,
suggesting that Zanu-PF remains concerned at Mugabe’s ability to win,
despite a state-sponsored campaign of violence and intimidation against the opposition.

While it is not clear whether Matonga was speaking with Mugabe’s authority in suggesting a long delay, political analysts in Zimbabwe say Zanu-PF is not in any hurry for another election.

The opposition also fears that spreading political violence will provide a
pretext for Zanu-PF to drag out the election further on the grounds that
there is too much instability to hold another vote, even though the ruling
party is principally responsible for creating the upheaval.

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