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Tsvangirai files court challenge against Mugabe poll win

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lawyers for Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's party filed a legal challenge Friday against the outcome of a crunch election which gave veteran President Robert Mugabe another five-year term.

Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) charge in a court appeal that the July 31 vote was a "farce" that was riddled with fraud and should be declared invalid.

"The prayer that we seek is that this election be declared null and void and also that a fresh election be held within 60 days," MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told journalists outside the constitutional court where the party's petition was lodged.

The election ended a shaky power-sharing government formed four years ago by Mugabe and Tsvangirai following a bloody election in 2008.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission declared Mugabe the winner with 61 percent of the vote in last week's election, against Tsvangirai with 34 percent.

But local observers have called the polls flawed and Western powers have raised serious doubts over the vote.

Both the United States and former colonial power Britain have questioned the credibility of the vote, while Australia has urged a re-run of the polls.

However, regional powers were less critical, with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) calling it "free and peaceful" while stopping short of describing it as fair.

The African Union declared it fair, while at the same time raising concerns about voters being turned away and about the electoral roll.

But independent monitors from the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said over 750,000 urban voters were missing from the electoral list, while rights groups said some people were forced by Mugabe supporters to feign illiteracy and vote in the presence of police and election officials.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Thursday that nearly 305,000 Zimbabwean voters were turned away because their names were missing from the voters' roll, they were registered elsewhere or they did not have adequate identification.

Data show that the largest number of voters -- 64,483, were turned away in the capital Harare.

Urban areas have long been a stronghold of Tsvangirai's MDC party.

"We are going to submit good evidence in our view. Some of the evidence is going to be oral evidence," said Mwonzora.

"The person on trial is not the Movement for Democratic Change. The person on trial is Mr Mugabe and his government. It's also the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and, I dare say, the judicial system of Zimbabwe."

The spokesman said his party has evidence of names which appeared more than once on the voters' roll.

The MDC is seeking an audit of the voters' roll, ballots and voter registration. It has also appealed to the high court to compel the electoral commission to produce copies of the voters' roll and provide the presidential election results for each constituency.

In the court documents seen by AFP, the MDC also alleges that an Israeli company was paid $10.5 million to manipulate the voters' roll.

"What is more worrying is the involvement of an Israeli firm, Nikuv Projects International, in the development, management and manipulation of the voters' roll," the court petition reads.

The court challenge could delay 89-year-old Mugabe's inauguration for his sixth term as president. The country's top court has 14 days to issue a ruling.

Nearly 3.5 million people cast their ballots in the polls, the electoral commission said.

This is the third time that Tsvangirai, a 61-year-old former union leader, has tried and failed to unseat Mugabe.

The MDC has called for an emergency summit of the regional SADC bloc after the group gave the vote a thumbs-up.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130809/tsvangirai-files-court-challenge-against-mugabe-poll-win-0