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Zimbabwe opposition: Runoff risks violence

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Zimbabwe appears calm, with little military and police presence on the streets
  • Opposition party tries to force publication of delayed election results
  • Zimbabwe's electoral commission has yet to release final results
  • Delay raises concerns that Mugabe is trying to remain in power
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- The opposition candidate who contends that he's the victor in Zimbabwe's presidential election says he doesn't want a runoff with President Robert Mugabe because he fears violence.

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A Zimbabwean war veteran takes part in a demonstration against Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare.

Mugabe "is preparing a war on the people," Tsvangirai said Saturday.

"This country cannot afford a runoff. A runoff would traumatize and polarize the nation."

Mugabe's Zanu-PF party says those concerns are unfounded.

On Friday, the party said that Mugabe is willing to enter a runoff if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission calls for one.

A runoff is required if neither candidate wins at least 51 percent of the vote.

A runoff, by law, would be held within 21 days after the commission announces results, but the official outcome of the March 29 presidential race has yet to be released.

Typically, the results of general elections are announced within two or three days of polls closing, said Lovemore Madhuku, a law professor at the University of Zimbabwe and chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly.

Although Madhuku said there is no deadline by law to release the results, despite claims by members of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, he agreed that a delay as long as this one is unusual.

The opposition party filed an application Friday with the nation's Supreme Court, asking that the commission be ordered to release the figures. A look at the candidates »

A hearing scheduled for Saturday was delayed because the commission said it wasn't ready with the necessary documents, opposition lawyer Alec Muchadehama said.

The hearing before Justice Tendai Uchena is set for noon Sunday in Harare, the capital.

Tsvangirai asked Saturday why the commission couldn't count 2.5 million votes in a week.

"For seven days, Zimbabweans have been placed in unnecessary limbo, unable to understand why an election of less than 2.5 million voters can take seven days to be announced," Tsvangirai said.

"Other countries like India, South Africa, or France -- with massive voter populations -- do not take more than 24 hours to conclude." Photo See photos from the country's elections »

He accused Mugabe of preparing to promote violence and intimidate voters, because the president has stationed militias and war veterans across the country.

The delayed presidential election results have raised fears that Mugabe is working on ways to cling to power.

"I think they should first tell us the results before they start planning a runoff, then we pick it up from there," one woman said. Video Watch why Zimbabweans are growing more suspicious »

There were three other races in the election: House and Senate seats and local council members. The only results released so far are the House votes, which show that Tsvangirai's party was victorious.

Mugabe's party has vowed to contest 16 seats in that race, contending that there was cheating involved.

Even as uncertainty around the presidential race dragged on, the streets of Zimbabwe appeared calm Saturday, with little military and police presence -- except for a few water cannons parked under trees.

Earlier, police blocked journalists and lawyers representing the Movement for Democratic Change from entering the High Court. They later were allowed inside.

Executive Zanu-PF members have promised to respect the outcome of the election, said Bright Matonga, a party spokesman who is also the government's deputy information minister.

"We don't think there will be violence. There's no need for violence, and we are going to show the rest of the world that Zimbabwe can hold peaceful elections," Matonga said Thursday.

Matonga attributed the delay in announcing results to the fact that four elections were held simultaneously, leaving the electoral commission with a huge task.

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Asked when he would release the presidential results, the chairman of the electoral commission, George Chiweshe, said he was prevented from talking about it because of the pending court decision.

Zanu-PF officials said they will support Mugabe in a run-off, indicating that's the direction the party is taking. But some party members said there is an attempt to avoid a run-off because the party knows Mugabe would lose. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About ZimbabweRobert MugabeMorgan Tsvangirai

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