JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday denied the need for a runoff election, insisting that he had won the presidential election outright. He also warned that the ruling party was readying a campaign of violence against his supporters to hang onto power.
Tsvangirai promised safety to President Robert Mugabe, 84, if he stepped aside. But his call for Mugabe to enter talks aimed at a peaceful, democratic transition seemed unlikely to find a warm reception from the ruling party. On Friday, it proclaimed that Mugabe would participate in a runoff if neither he nor Tsvangirai, 56, won a majority.
The opposition and the ruling party are jockeying for political position as the country and the world wait with consternation for Zimbabwean election officials to finally announce the outcome of a presidential election held March 29, a race that was, according to all provisional tallies, extraordinarily close.
Lawyers for Tsvangirai's party, Movement for Democratic Change, tried on Saturday to force the Electoral Commission to release the official tally through a petition to the High Court. A hearing is expected today.
The ruling party, which has led the country into a ruinous economic decline, lost its majority in the lower house of Parliament in last week's election for the first time since the country's independence from white rule in 1980, but is now demanding a recount for 16 seats in an apparent bid to reclaim control.