Zimbabwe Court Upholds Results of Presidential Election
HARARE, Zimbabwe — The Zimbabwe Constitutional Court on Friday rejected a call from the country’s top opposition party to throw out the results of the presidential election last month, clearing the way for the governing party’s candidate to be sworn in within 48 hours.
The elections on July 30 were the first to be held after the ouster of Robert Mugabe, who led this country for 37 years before he was toppled last year in a military coup, and whose departure had raised hopes that the vote would be conducted in a more fair and transparent manner.
According to official results, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the presidential candidate for the governing ZANU-PF, won 50.8 percent of the vote, barely clearing the threshold needed to avoid a runoff, and Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance received 44.3 percent.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba, calling the allegations “bold and unsubstantiated,” said the opposition had failed to prove that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had engaged in fraud, and in particular noted that the opposition had elected not to check the votes in the ballot boxes.
“Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is duly declared the winner of the presidential election,” he said after a unanimous ruling by the court’s nine judges.
The ruling was in line with the earlier assessments of international and domestic observers, who described the election campaign as free and peaceful, and said the vote itself, while not perfect, was not marred by the widespread fraud alleged by the opposition.
That was in contrast to the widespread violence, intimidation and fraud that characterized many votes under Mr. Mugabe. The ruling on Friday cannot be appealed.
At least six people died in clashes between the police and opposition supporters who said that the election had been rigged, and the opposition asked the Constitutional Court to throw out the results and nullify the victory for Mr. Mnangagwa, a former deputy to Mr. Mugabe who stepped in to replace him in November.
Security was tight in the capital, Harare, amid concerns that the ruling on Thursday could provoke a new round of unrest.
There was little initial reaction from the opposition. A leader of Mr. Chamisa’s coalition, Tendai Biti, wrote on Twitter: “We have never taken anything for granted. We have never had any illusions. We will take body blows but we will continue our fight for truth and justice.”
Mr. Mnangagwa, also on Twitter, appealed for “peace and unity above all,” and said to his rival, “Nelson Chamisa, my door is open and my arms are outstretched.”
In challenging the results of the election, the opposition claimed that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had committed “gross mathematical errors,” and that there should be a new election or a declaration of victory for Mr. Chamisa.
Pointing to at least 16 polling stations that he said were listed as delivering identical results, the opposition’s lead lawyer, Thabani Mpofu, said the official returns looked “like a kid was playing with the figures.”
Mr. Mpofu alleged that the electoral commission had produced three sets of presidential results, including one in court papers where the commission revised Mr. Mnangagwa’s win down to 50.67 percent.
“If we are to say Mnangagwa won, how many votes did he get? How can the process be valid if we cannot answer that question?” Mr. Mpofu asked the court.
The election commission attributed the revision to an error, and said that, in any case, the change was not significant enough to overturn the result.
Zimbabwe is no stranger to electoral court challenges, although Mr. Mugabe’s departure had raised hopes that this time the vote would be conducted in a manner that was more fair and transparent.
In 2013, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change at the time, mounted a legal challenge and accused Mr. Mugabe, his longtime rival, of rigging an election, but he abandoned the case after claiming he had been denied the polling evidence to prove his case. The Constitutional Court rejected his withdrawal, and went ahead to rule in favor of Mugabe.