Thursday, April 03, 2008

Zimbabwe: ZANU-PF party has lost its majority in parliament

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has lost its majority in parliament according to the latest official result from the Zimbabwe Election Commission. And, as Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare, this news follows an earlier announcement from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change that it believes its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, has won more than 50 percent of the vote in the presidential race.

The Zimbabwe Election Commission's latest results indicate that the MDC and its allies will have an historic, small, parliamentary majority. ZANU-PF has held the majority in parliament since independence from Britain in 1980.

But this news was pre-empted by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which in a media conference announced that its tally, which it says coincides with that of the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, shows that its presidential candidate Tsvangirai got 50.3 percent of the vote. So far there is no official tally of votes cast in the race for president.

If the MDC tally of the presidential race is correct, this would mean that Tsvangirai has won an outright victory over the 84-year-old incumbent, President Robert Mugabe.

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti says this means there should be no need for a run-off in the presidential race which would have to take place in 21 days from when the result is officially announced. But he said Tsvangirai would be willing to contest a run-off, if the Commission insists one is required.

"A runoff in 21 days," said Biti. "That is what the law says. If that is the case, without prejudice to our position this party will contest the runoff, but we would have hoped for a situation that there will be a conceding of the result for a number of reasons, and the number of reasons being that it is unlikely that the people's will, will in any way be reversed in that run-off. If anything, there will actually be an embarrassing margin in favor of the opposition in the runoff. There is no question about that.

Biti said he hopes President Mugabe will realize that any run-off would deliver him a smashing defeat.

He adds that the party's assessment of the election results are based on actual votes cast, counted and verified by the Zimbabwe Election Commission at each individual polling station. But he notes that there are some outstanding results which have not yet been released.

Political analysts say the margins are so narrow that the MDC might be forced to accept a run-off because disputes about even one or two voting stations could significantly change the overall percentages.

Biti said the margin of error was very small, adding that his party has already called for verification of the officially announced results at some polling stations because of discrepancies with its own records.

Meanwhile the ruling ZANU-PF has described the MDC's tally of the presidential race as "wishful". Party spokesman Bright Matonga said no party could decide the winner but suggested ZANU-PF has accepted there might be a run-off for the presidential election.

The elections last Saturday were for four contests, the presidency, parliament, senate and local government.

Published with the permission of Voice of America