Angus Shaw

Angus Shaw

HARARE - Zimbabwe's opposition is holding out the possibility its leader would face President Robert Mugabe in a presidential runoff but called on the nation's neighbours to verify the vote count from the first round.

Thokozani Khupe, vice president of the Movement for Democratic Change, said at the weekend that the group still believed a runoff was unnecessary, maintaining opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round outright on March 29.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission released results on Friday giving Tsvangirai the lead, but not the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff with Mugabe.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said the constitution required a second round no sooner than 21 days from the announcement of the results, and no later than a year. The opposition has consistently rejected a runoff, but its stance has appeared to soften since the official results were released, and Mugabe's party said he would take part in a second round. MDC secretary general Tendai Biti acknowledged that skipping a second round could result in another term for Mugabe. He also said a runoff would be illegal and there could not be one "for the simple reason that the country is burning" amid violence and an economic collapse from rampant inflation. - Sapa-AP