What next for Zimbabwe’s embattled opposition?


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Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change has fiercely rejected the result of last week’s elections, the first to be held without long-serving despot Robert Mugabe.

Here are some of the questions facing party leader Nelson Chamisa after being declared runner-up in the poll that saw his rival President Emmerson Mnangagwa elected with 50.8 percent of the vote:

The MDC needs to challenge the results in court in order to mollify its support base, according to Chipo Dendere, politics professor at Amherst University.

“This is something that the MDC didn’t do in 2008 and a lot of their supporters and people around the world were saying, ‘well why didn’t (former MDC leader Morgan) Tsvangirai go to the courts?'”

The party has until today to launch a legal challenge, after which the Constitutional Court would have up to 14 days to issue a verdict.

“I doubt they’ll need that length of time, I expect they’ll give the petition fairly short shrift,” said Derek Matyszak, Zimbabwe analyst at the Institute for Security Studies.

Dendere said that the absence of MDC elder statesman Tendai Biti, who dramatically tried to seek asylum in Zambia before being deported could frustrate the party’s challenge.

“Biti is one of the leading opposition figures and also a lawyer himself,” she said of Biti,  who appeared in court yesterday and was released on $5 000 bail.

“I would assume that for the court case he must have been very influential in some ways and his departure probably caused some issues for the opposition.”

Though Chamisa says he is “significantly happy” that a legal challenge on the basis of alleged voting rigging would succeed, it is unclear what smoking gun evidence the opposition has.

“They have been claiming that the numbers have been manipulated… and that the figures put out by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) are fraudulent,” said Matyszak.

“I’d be very surprised if that’s the case. Shortly after the MDC made these claims, in order to preempt them, the ZEC issued a spreadsheet showing all the results for the presidential election right down to polling station level.

“It would be rather odd to manipulate the results and then issue a spreadsheet inviting people to find out exactly how that manipulation had taken place.”

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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