Zimbabwe announces runoff

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Zimbabwe's opposition on Friday accused President Robert Mugabe of "grand theft" after long-delayed official results of the nation's presidential election showed no candidate won outright and there must be a runoff.

The opposition's national executive will decide this weekend whether to contest a second round of balloting even though the party insists that its candidate won the first time.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced the results Friday, more than a month after the election. They showed that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai received 47.9 percent of the vote to 43.2 percent for Mugabe and 8.3 percent for ruling party defector Simba Makoni.

The constitution calls for a runoff if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, has repeatedly ruled out contesting a rerun, claiming Tsvangirai won more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 29 balloting based on results posted outside of polling stations. If he doesn't participate, election officials could declare Mugabe the winner.

Asked whether the MDC would allow this to happen, party Secretary-General Tendai Biti said, "We're fully alive and we will not allow Mugabe to steal it." But he also said that holding a runoff would be "folly."

"It's quite clear that there's been an attempt at grand theft, grand kleptocracy, if you like," Biti said at a news conference.

An addendum to the constitution gives victory to the top vote-getter, he said, despite the constitution's requirement that the winner have 50 percent of the ballots plus one.

Biti gave the opposition's own presidential tally, which indicated that Tsvangirai received 50.3 percent of the ballots, and said the electoral commission figures in effect had stolen 80,000 votes from the MDC candidate.

However, a count released by the party on April 2 gave him only 49 percent of the vote.

Asked Friday about the difference in the two sets of MDC figures, Biti said: "There was a discrepancy. What we've simply done was to update the figures."

Biti indicated the MDC was willing to form a government of national unity on the condition Mugabe retired. He said Mugabe's safety and assets would be guaranteed.

Both the U.S. and Britain questioned the credibility of the election result, given the long delay in its release.

Britain's Foreign Office and the European Union said a rerun would not be fair unless international monitors were present.

Zimbabwe announces runoff 05/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:28pm]

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