Zimbabwe opposition withdraws election challenge

Zimbabwe`s opposition Movement for Democratic Change said that it is withdrawing a court challenge over disputed election results that gave long-time President Robert Mugabe a commanding victory.

Harare: Zimbabwe`s opposition Movement for Democratic Change said on Friday that it is withdrawing a court challenge over disputed election results that gave long-time President Robert Mugabe a commanding victory, saying it did not believe it would get a fair hearing.

The party said in a document filed at the Constitutional Court that it will not participate in a hearing scheduled on Saturday and asked that the nine judges of the highest court be advised of the withdrawal. Outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is a leader of the opposition group.

By late Friday evening, the MDC had not received another court judgment on its demands for the release of crucial election material by the state Election Commission. It believes the material will help it corroborate claims that up to 1 million eligible voters were kept from voting and that ballots were cast in the names of dead people.

Nelson Chamisa, the fourth-ranking party official, told a news agency that it was impossible to proceed with Saturday`s hearing without full information and evidence it had sought from election authorities.

"There is no value in us going to the courts without the proof that is beyond doubt," he said.

Attorney Chris Mhike said even if a last minute ruling was made to force the election body to release the material sought, it left no time for an analysis of voting figures. Chamisa said without the proof it sought from the election body, tomorrow`s challenge would likely be thrown out, undermining the opposition`s position.

"We are refusing to give Mugabe legitimacy through his courts," he said.

After violent and disputed elections in 2008, Mugabe was forced by regional leaders to form a shaky power-sharing coalition with Tsvangirai. But the 89-year-old Mugabe was said to have garnered 61 per cent of the presidential vote to Tsvangirai`s 34 per cent in the July 31 election.

The long-time president has traditionally appointed Zimbabwe`s judges and has long been accused of packing the judiciary with his sympathizers.

Earlier Friday, MDC party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the Constitutional Court, made up of Mugabe`s loyalist judges, had barred cross-examination of witnesses that would expose voting irregularities.

Mugabe`s party has denied claims of vote rigging. The president said in a national address on Monday the outcome is irreversible and the losers must accept defeat.

But Tsvangirai has described the elections as "a monumental fraud," and Mwonzora said the opposition party was "baffled" by the reluctance of election officials to make available the requested material, even after regional and African mediators said polling day itself was peaceful and fair.

PTI

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