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Zimbabwe Opposition Reports Widespread Vote-Rigging - 2002-03-26

The main opposition party in Zimbabwe has released a detailed report the party claims contains proof of widespread rigging in this month's disputed presidential election.

The opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it has clear evidence that the presidential election held earlier this month was fraudulent.

The MDC has issued a 200-page report on the poll, listing scores of irregularities and alleging a systematic manipulation of the electoral process to ensure victory for President Robert Mugabe.

According to official results announced by the registrar general, Mr. Mugabe beat MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai by more than 400,000 votes. But Mr. Tsvangirai has refused to accept the results of the poll, which he says was "stolen."

In its latest report, the MDC says hundreds of its polling agents were chased away from polling stations, especially in rural areas, which meant they were unable to keep tabs on the voting and counting processes.

The MDC report says in many rural constituencies, there are large differences between the number of votes cast at polling stations and the number reported by the registrar-general in the official results.

In some areas, the party says thousands of votes disappeared; the official results show far fewer ballots than local authorities said were cast.

In other areas, the party alleges ballot boxes were stuffed. The MDC says the registrar-general's figures for some districts show thousands of extra votes when compared to results for those same districts announced by local election officials.

The MDC is calling for new elections, to be run by an independent electoral commission.

The same recommendation has been made by some independent local and international election observers. The poll has been called neither free nor fair by observers representing the Commonwealth group of nations, southern African lawmakers and local civic groups. The Commonwealth has suspended Zimbabwe for one year.

The Zimbabwean government so far has not responded to the opposition's allegations of rigging. But the ruling party has said it could not have rigged the election if it tried.