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Zimbabwe Opposition Wants New Elections, New Constitution

Zimbabwe's embattled opposition has demanded new parliamentary elections under a different constitution, saying voting can never be free and fair under the country's current government. This demand follows the victory of President Robert Mugabe's party last week in parliamentary elections.

The Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's main opposition party, said President Mugabe's call for the MDC to accept the result of Thursday's election so the two parties could work together was just a public relations exercise.

MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told VOA that the president's remarks are meant to put the opposition under pressure. He said Mr. Mugabe made the announcement for the benefit of his allies, who he hopes will see him as willing to work with the opposition.

Mr. Nyathi said if Mr. Mugabe's offer is sincere, then the MDC challenging the result of the poll should not cause problems between the two parties .

Brian Raftopoulus of the University of Zimbabwe is equally skeptical of Mr. Mugabe's motives.

"I think this is really playing to the gallery," he said. "Mugabe knows that he has seriously damaged - through his manipulation of the political and electoral process - the opposition. It is a kind of false magnanimity. A kind of condescending malice that comes from a political process that does not present genuine opportunities for national reconciliation."

Mr. Nyathi said his party maintains that the election was fraudulent and is still looking at the options open to it before announcing its next step.

An 55-member observer mission from the Southern African Development Community concluded the elections "reflected the will of the people" despite biased media coverage and problems with the voters' roll. Observers from the African Union stopped short of calling it free and fair, noting in particular serious problems with the electoral roll.

Former colonial ruler Britain called the elections "seriously flawed," citing harassment and intimidation while the United States said balloting took place "on a playing field that was heavily tilted in favor of the government."

Canada expressed concern that ZANU-PF had intimidated rural voters by threatening to deny them food aid and the Luxembourg presidency of the EU slammed what it called a "pseudo election campaign."