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Zimbabwe court postpones decision on lawsuit to force election results release

[JURIST] The Harare High Court on Sunday postponed until Monday its decision on whether it will order Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission to release the results of the nation's March 29 presidential elections, after hearing arguments in a lawsuit [JURIST reports] brought by opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] seeking immediate release of the results. Independent observers say that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won more votes than current president Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], but Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] party are demanding a recount [JURIST report]. During a four-hour hearing Sunday, Electoral Commission officials argued that the court does not have jurisdiction to compel publication of the results. Observers predict that neither candidate has received an outright majority of votes, in which case both parties have indicated they will agree to a run-off; that race would take place three weeks after the results are announced. The Electoral Commission has already announced that the MDC defeated the ruling ZANU-PF in the parliamentary vote.

The court on Saturday postponed hearing the case [JURIST report] when MDC members were barred from entering the court. On Thursday, Zimbabwean security forces detained journalists [CPJ press release; JURIST report] working for the New York Times and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and raided offices belonging to opposition candidates. Some see both as indications that Mugabe may refuse to relinquish power if he is found to have lost last week's general election. The public reappearance on Saturday of pro-Mugabe war veterans [Independent report], with a history of violent support of the majority rule, was also seen as an intimidation tactic. Opposition parties allege that the government rigged the country's local, senate, assembly and presidential elections. Mugabe's administration has denied any improper delays in the vote count, with Electoral Commission officials attributing the lag to the task of tallying all the results together for the first time in the country's history. Reuters has more.

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