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Opposition Lawyers Finish Arguments to Annul 2002 Zimbabwe Election - 2003-11-04


Arguments have been presented to a court in Zimbabwe on the opposition's petition to have the 2002 presidential election result annulled.

After a day and a half of hearing arguments from opposition and government lawyers, Judge Ben Hlatshwayo said he would need some time to digest the presentations before making a decision.

The attorneys for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai concluded more than a full day of arguments, telling the court President Robert Mugabe had cheated in the election by enacting laws by decree, which should have been voted on by the parliament.

The opposition lawyers also contended that the Zimbabwe Electoral Supervisory Commission was not validly constituted.

In his brief counter-argument, Mr. Mugabe's layer, Terence Hussein, said the petition is the weakest ever to come before the courts, and is totally devoid of merit. He said the petition deals with what he called collateral issues of procedure, when the real issue is simply whether or not the president was duly elected.

He also argued that the matter is too important to be decided by what he called lawyers' arguments, and should be put to trial where witnesses could be called.

Mr. Hussein said if the matter comes to trial, he will argue that Mr. Tsvangirai hurt his own campaign by colluding with western powers, which were putting sanctions on Zimbabwe because of the government's policies. "He scored an 'own goal;' he made people turn against him because of his own actions. People were not prepared to see a person going around the world denouncing his own country, denouncing his own system and calling for sanctions against them. They were not prepared for that," he said.

Mr. Hussein said the opposition candidate hoped the foreign sanctions would hurt President Mugabe at the polls, but he said the strategy backfired, and now Mr. Tsvangirai wants the court to reverse the election results.

Mr. Tsvangirai petitioned the High Court to set aside the results of the election because of what he calls gross irregularities, including abuse of power by the president, and the use of violence and intimidation by the ruling party. Many Zimbabwean and international observers said the election was neither free nor fair.

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