HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Friday was filing a legal challenge to the results of the country’s first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot.
Lawyers for the Movement for Democratic Change party arrived at court less than an hour before the deadline to submit papers alleging the July 30 vote was rigged. They were accompanied by Jameson Timba, the chief election agent for the party led by Nelson Chamisa.
“We have a good case and cause!” Chamisa said on Twitter.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party won the election, with the president receiving 50.8 percent of the vote. The court filing would delay the inauguration that the government had been planning for Sunday. The court has 14 days to rule.
Mnangagwa, an ex-vice president and longtime confidant of former leader Mugabe, says he wants to make Zimbabwe more open and democratic. Mugabe resigned in November after a military takeover, and many Zimbabweans were euphoric at his departure after decades of economic and political paralysis.
Two days after the election, however, soldiers opened fire during opposition protests in Harare, with six people killed. Foreign governments, Western election observers and human rights activists have expressed concern about the “excessive” force and reports of opposition supporters being targeted by security forces since then.
On Thursday, senior opposition figure Tendai Biti was charged with inciting public violence and declaring unofficial election results as fears grew about a government crackdown. Biti asserted before the electoral commission’s official announcement that Chamisa was the real winner. The commission has said Chamisa received 44.3 percent of the vote.
Biti first fled to Zambia, where authorities denied asylum and handed him over to Zimbabwean security forces in defiance of a Zambian court order. The United States and several other nations, as well as the U.N. refugee agency, have expressed grave concern.