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Zimbabwe Sets Runoff Presidential Vote for June 27


Zimbabwe says the delayed presidential runoff election between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is to be held on June 27. The opposition leader says he will contest the second round but continues to maintain that the date is illegal. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission says voters will go to the polls in six weeks to choose a head-of-state.

President Robert Mugabe is to face opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai after coming in second in the first round with 43 percent of the vote to Tsvangirai's 47 percent. The opposition says Tsvangirai won more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round and should have been declared president.

The official results from the presidential vote were delayed by five weeks. The electoral commission Thursday extended the deadline for holding the runoff to 90 days - more than two months later than the 21 days previously required.

Tsvangirai, who has been traveling outside Zimbabwe, told reporters in Northern Ireland that he would participate but under protest.

"The 27th of June has been set. We will contest," he said. "But we are saying the only legal date upon which ZEC, or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, can set a date which is within the law is the 23rd of May."

Mr. Mugabe Friday met with leaders of his ZANU-PF party to plan their election strategy. ZANU-PF, which has held power since independence 28 years ago, lost its parliamentary majority in the March 29 elections although both sides are still contesting nearly one-fourth of the results.

Officials of the Movement for Democratic Change said Tsvangirai was to return to Zimbabwe Saturday. They said he would hold rallies around the country to thank supporters for their votes and visit victims of the violence that followed it.

The opposition says dozens of supporters have been killed and hundreds wounded in attacks since the long-delayed results were announced.

The government accuses the opposition of fomenting the violence. Human rights groups say some incidents were committed by opposition supporters but most were by government supporters sometimes assisted by members of the security forces.

A researcher at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, Chris Maroleng, says that because of the violence and the delays, there is not enough time to prepare for a free and fair vote.

"The problem with elections in Zimbabwe is that they create an adversarial dynamic," he said. "And normally this adversarial dynamic leads to the acceptance of the use of violence as a way of resolving political differences."

He says some groups are urging the two sides to consider working together, whether in a transitional government or a government of national unity. The purpose would be to create an environment that would allow a free and fair vote. And such a body could also address the Zimbabwean crisis characterized by hyper-inflation, high unemployment and shortages of basic goods.

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