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Terrorism & Security

Vote results delayed for fear of violence, Zimbabwe says

The country's electoral commission said releasing results from the March 29 presidential vote would be 'dangerous' as international efforts for release of poll widened.

By TOM MCCAWLEY / April 9, 2008

Legal teams took a break outside the High Court in Harare, Zimbabwe on Monday. The opposition has called a High Court judge to speed up the publication of the March 29 presidential election results; a second day of hearings on the polls began Wednesday.

Mujahid Safodien/AP

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The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said Wednesday that the release of results from the country's disputed March 29 presidential election could precipitate dangerous tensions. This comes as international calls for the release of the results broadened amid growing concerns that President Robert Mugabe is trying to delay the result announcement to give him time to prepare for a probable runoff against top opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

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Lawyers for the ZEC hinted at escalating violence in the conflict-torn state, where a week's delay in critical election results has led to widespread fears of clashes between opposition and government supporters, reports Reuters. International human rights activists say Zimbabwe's recent history of political violence has been fostered by militias backed by Mr. Mugabe, a charge the government denies.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party apparently lost control of Parliament, according to results released April 3. But Mugabe is disputing the results, and some electoral officials have been arrested.

Opposition figures have warned that government-backed militias are campaigning to intimidate voters with violence ahead of a possible run-off election, the Los Angeles Times reports, and on April 4, one opposition leader said Mugabe had been "preparing a war against the people," reported The Christian Science Monitor.

International calls for the release of delayed results from the vote also increased on Wednesday. The United Nations, European Union, Australia, and Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa's ruling party, all issued calls for the release of election results, Reuters reports.

Tendai Biti, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party, said more violence in the conflict-torn state was imminent unless two regional groups – the African Union and the Southern African Development Community – intervened.

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