May 2nd, 2008 11:37 EST
Officials say Zimbabwe will need run-off
Zimbabwe's electoral commission says a run-off will be needed to determine the winner of the March 29 presidential election.
Officials results released Friday - more than a month after the election - show longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai winning 47.9 percent of the vote. President Robert Mugabe trailed with 43.2 percent.
The commission says that since no candidate received a majority of the vote, a run-off will be held at a date to be announced.
But Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, is calling the results "scandalous." The party insists Mr. Tsvangirai won an outright victory. The spokesman also says the results were released while the commission and the parties were still in talks to verify and finalize vote tallies from around the country.
There was no immediate word from the MDC on whether it will take part in the run-off. The party has said repeatedly it will not.
If Mr. Tsvangirai does not take part in the run-off, Mr. Mugabe would be declared the winner.
Zimbabwe's government has come under intense international criticism for holding up the results of the presidential election. Mr. Mugabe's critics say the results were delayed so he can alter them, orchestrate a run-off and hold onto power.
On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the vote result would have limited credibility, because of what he called the "unconscionable" delay in releasing the tally.
The spokesman also accused Mr. Mugabe of ordering attacks against opposition supporters and said he must, in the spokesman's words, "call off his dogs."
Human rights groups says the president's supporters are conducting a terror campaign meant to intimidate opponents ahead of the possible run-off. The government has denied the allegation and accuses the MDC of conducting political attacks.
The March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections were the biggest challenge President Mugabe has faced since he took power in 1980, when Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain. The MDC has already been declared the winner of the parliamentary race.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.