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New Delay in Zimbabwe Elections

Concerns about a possible delay in Zimbabwe's presidential run-off election are increasing. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has warned that the any delay beyond the 21 day limit from May 2 when results were released will be a breach of election law. Peta Thornycroft has this report.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, or ZEC, chaired by Judge George Chiweshe who was appointed by President Robert Mugabe, has made it clear it will decide the timing of the second round of the presidential election.

The announcement was carried in the State controlled newspaper Sunday Mail.

The run-off is necessary, according to the ZEC, because no candidate got more than half the votes cast in the March 29 elections. MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai nevertheless decisively outpolled incumbent President Mugabe, the ruling party Zanu-PF candidate.

It took the commission five weeks to announce the results and rights lawyers say the delay was an abuse of the electoral law.

Now there are reports in various media with connections to Zanu-PF that the run-off will be delayed by at least 40 days.

Lawyers have complained that there are more than 120 officials, mostly teachers, from the commission still in detention in connection with the election results. The union representing the teachers claims the ZEC has done little to help the detained officials.

When the results were announced, ruling party secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, made complaints accusing the MDC of bribing its way to victory.

He used examples of the illegal recount of 23 constituencies where a handful of votes changed, but did not alter the final result.

He also said that Zanu-PF would contest the results of 52 constituencies by petitioning the electoral court which still has to be established.

The MDC has said it too will contest results of scores of results it believed it had won.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Monday called for an immediate end to political violence and called on the the police, army, central intelligence organization and Zanu PF militia and so-called war veterans to cease attacking people it suspects voted for the MDC.

It also requested that expanded regional and international election observers be allowed immediate entry into Zimbabwe and that all local observers be allowed to continue their duties without further accreditation.

Political violence, according to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, dramatically increased last week and so far about 700 people have been treated and many admitted to hospital with serious injuries.

Many thousands of people have been forced out of their homes and many schools have been taken over by militia. The MDC says at least 20 of its members have been killed.

Nearly all those interviewed by rights lawyers or doctors say they were attacked because they voted for the MDC in the elections.

Mr. Mugabe admits his loyalists killed thousands of oppositon supporters in southern Zimbabwe in the early 1980's.