HARARE, ZIMBABWE— In Zimbabwe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has asked the country’s highest court to nullify last week’s re-election of President Robert Mugabe. Africa’s oldest leader was declared the winner of the July 31 election, but the Zimbabwean leader does not know when he will be sworn in.
Journalists congregate Friday outside outside Zimbabwe’s constitutional court, which will determine who will be the head of this southern African country.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Election Commission declared that Mugabe had handily defeated Tsvangirai, 61 percent to 34 percent.
On Friday, just before the close of business, a spokesman for Tsvangirai's MDC party came out of the Constitutional Court.
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said, “The Movement for Democratic Change has filed its election petition. The prayer we are seeking is that this election be declared null and void in terms of section 93 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, also a fresh election be called within 60 days.”
Mwonzora also said the MDC had 15 reasons detailing why they want the president's re-election nullified. Those reasons include alleged bribery of the electorate by some of the contesting candidates and lack of professionalism by the Zimbabwe Election Commission [ZEC].
The MDC accuses ZEC of rigging the July 31 election in favor of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.
Outside the constitutional court was Tafadzwa Mugwadi, a ZANU-PF youth leader. He said he believes the challenge will fail.
“The MDC is challenging peaceful elections that were held in this country. That is an instruction coming from Sydney, coming from Canbera, Ottawa, it is coming from America, it is coming from the British," said Mugwadi. "We are not worried by the challenge because it will not amount to anything, because certainly the president is going to be sworn in."
It is not clear when Mugabe might take the oath of office for a new term. Under Zimbabwe’s constitution, once there is litigation, the swearing-in of a president is withheld until the case is finalized. The constitutional court has 14 days to dispose of the case.
If the election is nullified, fresh polls will be called in 60 days. If the case is dismissed, Mugabe will be sworn in within 48 hours after the ruling.
Zimbabwe’s election is set to dominate the meeting of Southern African leaders in Malawi next week. In 2008, African leaders refused to recognize an election in which Mugabe had claimed victory over Tsvangirai. They forced the two to form a fragile power-sharing government, which ended with the July 31 elections.
The polls were Tsvangirai’s third attempt to defeat Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.