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Zimbabwe opposition claims parliamentary victory PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 April 2008

AFP, HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition party said Saturday it had retained a historic victory over President Robert Mugabe's ruling party and accused the authorities of stepping up a campaign of violence.

The Movement for Democratic Change said a recount in 23 of the country's 210 constituencies had confirmed its victory in the March 29 elections.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was not able to confirm the claim. The opposition also said at least 15 of its supporters had been killed in politically-motivated attacks in rural areas of this troubled southern African nation and called on human rights monitors to help end the violence.

"The news we're getting is that the election result of March 29 has been confirmed. What we hear is that nothing has changed in all the constituencies," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP.

But ZEC spokesman Utloile Silaigwana said the recount had only been completed in 14 of the 23 constituencies under the microscope and said the results would be announced at a later date. According to initial results, ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain in 1980. A partial recount was ordered following allegations of vote fraud by the opposition.

The MDC has said the recount was an attempt by the government to buy time and rig the election result and has refused to recognise its outcome, holding on to its original victory in parliament. Chamisa meanwhile said Saturday that 15 activists had been killed so far in political violence since the elections and that the number could be higher as some rural areas had been cut off.

"So far we have recorded 15 but the carnage is worse than that because of the iron curtain that has been imposed on the villages. People are being killed like flies and buried in the villages," Chamisa said. Police have not confirmed any of the deaths claimed by the opposition and have accused the MDC of putting out "lies" in a bid to stir unrest in Zimbabwe.

The authorities said they detained 215 opposition supporters in a swoop on MDC headquarters in Harare on Friday in a search for suspected arsonists. In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the spiralling violence in Zimbabwe Saturday and pledged intensified international action following a UN Security Council debate next week.

"I condemn the violence against those who voted for change. Their voices must be heard," Brown said in a statement. Exactly a month after the joint parliamentary and presidential elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was yet to announce any results from the presidential vote despite growing international pressure.

The MDC claims that its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won an outright majority in the vote against 84-year-old Mugabe while ZANU-PF supporters say no candidate won more than 50 percent and there should be a second round. "Although official results have not yet been released, all independent tallies of the results posted outside polling stations... point to a run-off," said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the state-run Herald daily reported.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer, who is on a tour of the region aimed at cutting off support for Mugabe, has said that Tsvangirai won a clear victory and should head any new government. Frazer met with Tsvangirai on Thursday and has also held talks with South African officials and Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, a Mugabe ally.

She was due to meet Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa this weekend. Angola meanwhile gave authorisation on Friday for a Chinese ship loaded with a controversial cargo of arms destined for Zimbabwe to dock in Luanda but said it would not be allowed to unload the weapons. Port officials said Saturday the ship had not yet arrived in Luanda.

The United States earlier urged China to turn back the shipment of assault rifle ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds amid fears that it could be used by Zimbabwean security forces against the opposition.

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