Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Zimbabwe opposition's hold on parliament confirmed

Interim results of a recount of disputed seats confirm the opposition's majority in Zimbabwe's parliament, a government-run newspaper reported yesterday.

Completion of the recount, expected today, should also pave the way for the first release of results from the 29 March presidential election, nearly a month after the polls were held.



But there was little appetite for celebrations amid reports of mounting violence and intimidation.



The top US envoy to Africa, Jendayi Frazer, called for international intervention. "When a government deploys its military – and its police and its intelligence operatives, as well as mobilising youth militia – then the international community has a responsibility to step in and to try to stop that government from beating its own population," Ms Frazer told Associated Press in Zambia.



Ms Frazer, the assistant US Secretary of State for African affairs, is touring the region to press leaders to take a tougher stance against President Robert Mugabe.



The UN high commissioner for human rights also voiced concern about an "emerging pattern of political violence" directed at opposition supporters, election monitors and human rights activists.



"If tolerance and respect for human rights continue their steep decline, the consequences will be grave for all Zimbabweans, and lead to further problems for neighbouring states," Louise Arbour said.



Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition leader, is believed to have won the presidential election, though not with enough votes to avoid a run-off. However, no results from the presidential poll have been released, and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has accused Mr Mugabe of engineering a delay – and a campaign of intimidation and violence – in a bid to hold on to power.



In the parliamentary race, results from 18 of 23 contested seats were enough to confirm opposition control of parliament for the first time since white rule ended in 1980, the Sunday Mail said.



The electoral commission had confirmed the results from a recount of 10 disputed parliamentary votes Saturday. Tallies from eight more seats have not been released, but Judge George Chiweshe, the head of the electoral commission, said there were no significant differences between the two counts – in effect confirming the opposition's control of the main 210-seat House of Assembly.



Original results from the elections showed opposition parties winning 110 seats to the ruling Zanu-PF's 97. Three vacant seats are awaiting by-elections after the deaths of candidates.



For the presidential race, the electoral commission will invite Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, or their polling agents, to a final "verification and collation exercise" on the tallies on today, said the Sunday Mail.



Judge Chiweshe said the candidates or their representatives will have a chance to examine the tallies before the results are released. Leaving room for a further delay, he said election authorities agreed that each party would collate its own figures during the final verification stage.



Political tensions have mounted since security forces raided the offices of the opposition and the independent observers on Friday, seizing materials related to the vote count. More than 200 people were arrested in the raid on opposition headquarters, police said.



The opposition said those arrested had been seeking refuge in Harare after being attacked by ruling-party loyalists in the countryside.



Alec Muchadehama, a human rights lawyer, said 24 children – "some still suckling" – were among the detained and that there were reports of widespread beatings in police stations.



Hundreds of opposition supporters have been abducted, tortured and assaulted in recent weeks in what independent religious and human rights groups call a violent crackdown on dissent.



Exiled Zimbabwean human rights activists said that they had set up a Truth and Justice Commission to "identify perpetrators and seek legal redress for the victims of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes."

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