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Zimbabwe Court Rejects Call to Release Vote Tally

BY Admin  April 14, 2008 at 10:00 AM EDT

MDC's Tendai Biti and Morgan Tsvangirai; AP photo

Rejecting a Movement for Democratic Change application to force the country’s electoral commission to release the vote tally, Judge Tendai Uchena said: “I dismiss the case with costs,” Reuters reported.

Uchena did not explain his judgment, but said the court would make it available by Tuesday.

The MDC says its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, defeated President Robert Mugabe in the March 29 vote, ending his 28-year rule.

“It’s a very sad day in Zimbabwe,” MDC lawyer Andrew Makoni told The Associated Press. “(The court) has given the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission a blank check. We don’t know when the ZEC will be ready with results. We don’t know what specific time would be reasonable in the eyes of the court.”

Government spokesman Bright Matonga said he could not comment until he read the ruling.

The opposition went to the High Court after a long delay in issuing the result by the ZEC. But in doing so, the party placed its faith in judges loyal to Mugabe.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters: “Naturally we are very disappointed because I think we have a very strong case. We are going to decide the way forward after meeting our lawyers, but in our view the release of those results is very, very urgent.”

MDC lawyers said they would decide whether to appeal after studying the High Court judgment. The opposition has called an indefinite general strike Tuesday to protest the delay.

Tsvangirai was in South Africa on Monday meeting prominent officials, his spokesman Nqobizitha Mlilo told the AP. Mlilo refused to name the officials. South African President Thabo Mbeki has been tasked with helping find a solution to the crisis.

At a weekend summit in Lusaka, southern African leaders said the election results should be released “expeditiously.”

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe Africa National Union – Patriotic Front party says neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won the necessary absolute majority in the presidential vote and a run-off will be necessary.

The delays have stoked tension in the southern African nation and brought a chorus of Western condemnation.

Zimbabwe’s economy is in ruins, with the world’s worst rate of hyper-inflation, but the judgment appeared to delay even further the time when the population will find out whether Mugabe’s rule is over. A quarter of Zimbabwe’s population has fled to escape inflation of more than 100,000 percent, chronic shortages of food and fuel and 80 percent unemployment.

MDC says Mugabe is holding back the presidential result to allow him time to prepare a violent response to his biggest electoral setback, when the ruling ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament in a parallel vote on March 29.

Both MDC and international human rights organizations say Mugabe has unleashed militias in violent campaign to intimidate opposition supporters before a runoff vote. The MDC says hundreds of villagers have been forced out of their homes by militia attacks and at least 50 needed medical treatment.

Further delays in releasing election results are expected because of legal maneuvers and a recount of 23 constituencies ordered by the ZEC for next Saturday. The MDC is also challenging that decision in court.