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Zimbabwe's Run-off still on: ZEC
Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008

Herald Reporter
The Herald

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday unanimously agreed to proceed with the presidential run-off election tomorrow as scheduled because Morgan Tsvangirai's withdrawal has no legal force since it was filed out of time.

ZEC – which was appointed by Zanu-PF and MDC-T – and all other political parties that contested the March 29 harmonised elections, under the Sadc-brokered talks, said it has since advised Tsvangirai about the decision in writing.

ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe said the poll would go ahead as Tsvangirai, who claims his security is under threat, briefly left the Dutch embassy in Harare to address a Press conference at his Strathaven home in Harare.

Tsvangirai called for military intervention in Zimbabwe disguised as peacekeepers and the setting-up of a transitional government supervised by the African Union and Sadc.

Addressing journalists, Justice Chiweshe said the commission had deliberated on the content and effect of Tsvangirai's letter in which he cited various reasons and concluded that the withdrawal was a nullity.

"It was unanimously agreed that the withdrawal had, inter alia, been filed well out of time and that for that reason the withdrawal was of no legal force or effect.

"Accordingly, the commission does not recognise the purported withdrawal. We are, therefore, proceeding with the presidential run-off election this Friday as planned. The ballot papers have been printed and dispatched. We are advising Mr Tsvangirai accordingly," he said.

Justice Chiweshe said the electoral law stipulates the period during which a candidate must file a withdrawal letter.

"I do not want to go into that. We will be writing to Mr Tsvangirai on the issue," he said.

When asked whether the withdrawal by Tsvangirai would have an effect on the legitimacy of the poll, Justice Chiweshe said: "The pullout has no legal force. In fact, there has been no pullout."

Justice Chiweshe said the commission was ready for the elections and that the results of the presidential run-off would be announced as soon as they were ready.

Constitutional law experts have said Tsvangirai cannot pull out of the run-off now and even though he has written to ZEC, the decision was of no legal force.

"The strict legal position is that candidature for the run-off or second election is not a voluntary exercise; you give your consent when you contest the first election," lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said.

Political analysts have described Tsvangirai's withdrawal announcement, which was made just before the UN Security Council met to discuss Zimbabwe, as a ploy to create a bleak picture of the Zimbabwean situation.

The Dutch foreign ministry yesterday confirmed Tsvangirai returned to their embassy.

Zanu-Ndonga has joined the list of organisations that have castigated the opposition leader for his decision to withdraw from the poll.

"Boycotting without offering an alternative is not the solution. The decision to pull out does not make any political sense," said Zanu-Ndonga secretary-general Mr Reketayi Semwayo at a Press conference.

The party's national organising secretary, Mr Gondai Vutuza, said it is Zimbabweans who have the mandate to find a solution to the challenges facing the country and not outsiders as claimed by Tsvangirai.

"Zimbabweans should decide their future and not any other person. It is us who should decide.

"The two presidential candidates should engage each other for political dialogue with a view to coming up with a solution. The search for solutions should obviously include every stakeholder," said Mr Vutuza.

Late yesterday, the Sadc election observer mission said it would remain in Zimbabwe until after the June 27 run-off, and that it was not bound by the decision of the Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, which met in Mbabane, Swaziland, yesterday.

Head of the election observer mission Angolan Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Mr Jose Marcos Barrica told journalists that the issue of whether or not there are elections in Zimbabwe is the responsibility of the Zimbabwean Government and ZEC.

"We will stay put until after June 27 be there elections or not. We may have our ideas, but that is the responsibility of the authorities," he said.

Mr Barrica said the mission was only bound by Sadc and not the troika.

He said the mission had made inroads in trying to bring the political players in Zimbabwe to the negotiating table.

"There are positive signals that can take the process forward. There is light at the end of the tunnel that can bring the two sides together. We think we have the way prepared for the leadership to go forward," he said.

Responding to questions on the mission's position following reports that members of the Sadc troika that met yesterday in Swaziland had recommended that tomorrow's run-off be postponed, Mr Barrica said the troika only deliberates on issues and does not make resolutions.

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