Zimbabwe opposition retains parliament control after recount

AP Photo JOH102, HRE101

By ANGUS SHAW

Associated Press Writer

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- A recount of disputed legislative seats has confirmed opposition control of parliament and should be complete Monday, allowing the release of results from last month's presidential election, state media reported.

The Sunday Mail newspaper, a government mouthpiece, said the state Electoral Commission planned to invite President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to a final "verification and collation exercise" on Monday.

The opposition and an independent Zimbabwean observer group say that Tsvangirai won the presidential race, and Mugabe has been accused of using delays, fraud and violence to hold onto power.

On Sunday, Jendayi Frazer, the top U.S. envoy for Africa called on the international community to intervene.

"When a government deploys its military, and its police, and its intelligence operatives, as well as mobilizing youth militia, then the international community has a responsibility to step in and to try to stop that government from beating its own population," Frazer said in an interview with The Associated Press in Zambia.

Frazer, assistant U.S. secretary of state for African affairs, is touring the region to press leaders to take a tougher stance against Mugabe.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a Mugabe loyalist, has criticized Frazer for her statements earlier in the week backing claims that Tsvangirai beat Mugabe.

The Sunday Mail newspaper said tallies from the presidential race would be scrutinized by the candidates or their representatives before results are given.

Leaving room for a further delay, election authorities agreed each party would collate its own figures during the final verification stage, said Judge George Chiweshe, head of the electoral commission.

Even if Mugabe retains the presidency, he will have to deal with a defiant parliament.

The Sunday Mail said the recount of 18 of 23 contested seats confirmed the initial results. Even if the opposition lost the last five districts, it would still hold the majority in parliament for the first time since independence from Britain in 1980.

On Saturday, the electoral commission confirmed the results in 10 disputed parliamentary votes: six seats were taken by the opposition and four by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Tallies from the additional eight recounted seats have not been released but Chiweshe told reporters Saturday there were no significant differences between the two counts, effectively confirming the opposition's control of the main 210-seat House of Assembly.

Political tensions have increased since security forces on Friday raided the offices of the opposition and independent observers, seizing materials related to the count.

Police confirmed Saturday that they arrested 215 people in a raid on opposition headquarters in Harare. They also said they searched the offices of the observer group, the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, looking for evidence that the Western-funded organization bribed state election officials to rig polling results.

The opposition said those arrested were seeking refuge in the capital, Harare, after being attacked by ruling party loyalists in the countryside.

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Associated Press Writer Joseph J. Schatz in Lusaka, Zambia contributed to this report.