zim tense over poll

Fanuel Jongwe

Fanuel Jongwe

Harare - Robert Mugabe's party refused to release its grip on power yesterday, demanding a recount in Zimbabwe's presidential elections and snubbing an offer to join the opposition in a national unity government.

As Zimbabweans began the second week of waiting for results of the poll, state media said Mugabe's Zanu-PF had dismissed a unity government as unworkable and was now demanding a complete recount after detecting irregularities.

Meanwhile, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed a clear victory over Mugabe in the March 29 vote, sought to break the deadlock with a legal bid to force officials to declare a winner.

After Tsvangirai upped the stakes on Saturday by declaring he had won enough votes to avoid a run-off against Mugabe, Zanu-PF hit back by demanding that the electoral commission stage a complete recount of the vote.

The state-run Sunday Mail said Zanu-PF had written to the electoral commission highlighting alleged anomalies in a number of constituencies.

"Zanu-PF has requested the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to recount and audit all its electoral material relating to last week's presidential elections," The newspaper said.

"This follows revelations of errors and miscalculations in the compilation of the poll result.

"Consequent to the anomalies, the party has also requested that the commission defer the announcement of the presidential election result."

But the demand was swiftly dismissed as "illegal" by the MDC, which claimed Zanu-PF was only demanding a recount because it had been stuffing ballot boxes with false voting slips since election day.

"A recount is only asked for 48 hours after the counting and they should have asked for a recount on Tuesday," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

"They know a recount will produce a fictitious and fallacious result in favour of Mugabe."

Amid the war of words one of Mugabe's lieutenants claimed the MDC had made an approach about a unity government but said this had been rejected.

"We can never collaborate with the MDC, given that our political objectives and aspirations are as different as day is from night," Patrick Chinamasa said.

Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, suffered the heaviest blow of his rule in last weekend's joint presidential and parliamentary elections.

Zanu-PF lost control of the 210-seat house of assembly to the MDC, while the party has acknowledged that Mugabe failed to win more than 50 percent of votes.

At a meeting of its politburo on Friday the party endorsed Mugabe to stand in a run-off on April 19.

But the lengthy delay over the release of results and the latest call for a recount is likely to upset the time frame.

Apart from demanding the presidential election recount, Zanu-PF is also challenging results from 16 parliamentary constituencies.

In the event of a run-off Tsvangirai is hoping to secure the support of Mugabe's former finance minister, Simba Makoni, who is thought to have come a distant third in the election. - Sapa-AFP