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Zimbabwe's presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai addresses a media conference in Harare on August 3, 2013/AFP

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Zimbabwe opposition readies Mugabe challenge

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Zimbabwe's presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai addresses a media conference in Harare on August 3, 2013/AFP

Zimbabwe’s presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai addresses a media conference in Harare on August 3, 2013/AFP

HARARE, Aug 5 – Zimbabwe’s defeated presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday prepared to mount a legal and political challenge against the “sham” election that looks set to extend Robert Mugabe’s 33-year rule.

Tsvangirai’s allies have announced they will launch a constitutional court challenge against the results of Wednesday’s election, which handed Mugabe a thumping 61 percent of the vote.

“Our lawyers are very busy at work. We will be lodging the presidential challenge before Friday,” Douglas Mwonzora, spokesman for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told AFP.

The case could delay 89-year-old Mugabe’s inauguration for another five-year term.

Once the complaint is lodged, the country’s top court has 14 days to reach a decision.

Western nations, including former colonial ruler Britain, voiced serious doubts about the election while the regional SADC bloc said it was “free and peaceful” but stopped short of describing it as fair.

But MDC insiders acknowledge that finding a smoking gun for electoral fraud and navigating the notoriously polarised court system with be fiendishly difficult.

The ruling ZANU-PF has welcomed the prospect of a court challenge over the vote – the first since bloody 2008 elections led to the formation of an uneasy power-sharing pact between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

“What they are doing is a good thing, it’s a wise road to take,” ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said, while expressing confidence that the challenge will fail.

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Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said that given the 61-34 percent vote split against Tsvangirai, his chances “are nonexistent, completely nonexistent”.

“It’s not a margin that normally gets challenged in court.”

We discovered that the SADC and the African Union equate absence of bloodshed in elections to free and fair elections, which is an incorrect way of looking at things.

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

Mwonzora said the MDC was preparing a “dossier of all the rigging that took place, and we will put it in the public domain to show the people how the election was stolen.”

The MDC has called for an emergency summit of the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) after the group gave the vote a thumbs-up, while refraining from calling the election “fair”.

South African President Jacob Zuma on Sunday extended his “profound congratulations” to Mugabe on his re-election after a “successful” vote, while his Namibian counterpart Hifikepunye Pohamba also welcomed the vote.

“The people of Zimbabwe have once again demonstrated their trust and confidence in the ZANU-PF and your party leadership,” he wrote in a letter to Mugabe.

The MDC’s Mwonzora – who himself lost his seat – expressed regret at the verdict of Zimbabwe’s neighbours.

“We discovered that the SADC and the African Union equate absence of bloodshed in elections to free and fair elections, which is an incorrect way of looking at things.”

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