Zimbabwe opposition on deadline to appeal election result

Zimbabwean police officials look at detained civilians as they stand in an armored vehicle outside MDC party headquarters in Harare

Lawyers of Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday afternoon filed papers in court challenging the election of president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Chamisa came second to Mnangagwa in a closely fought presidential election which saw him emerge with a 44,3 percent of the national vote while Mnangagwa got 50,8 percent. The Constitutional Court must rule within 14 days and Mnangagwa's inauguration would have to wait for the outcome of Chamisa's challenge. Given the tension in the preceding week, it is our hope that the MDC Alliance has secured adequate evidence to put up a decent fight with which they may be able to win if the court acts fairly and professionally.

"Today (Friday) I spoke to Nelson Chamisa and Foreign Minister Moyo to urge all parties to ensure calm while any challenges to the result of the election are resolved".

Mr Chamisa tweeted: "Our legal team successfully filed our court papers".

Mnangagwa's inauguration planned for Sunday was postponed until the court makes its ruling.

The first election since Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after a coup in November had been expected to end Zimbabwe's pariah status and launch an economic recovery but post-election unrest has reminded the country of its violent past.

By narrowly winning more than 50% of the vote Mr Mnangagwa avoided a run-off election against Mr Chamisa.

Zanu-PF secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa earlier in the week revealed that the party has assembled a 12-man legal team to respond to the challenge. Six died after soldiers opened fire on the protesters in a response the opposition alliance called "disproportionate and unjustified".

The aftermath of the polls has been marred by allegations by rights groups as well as by the MDC of a crackdown on opposition members, including beatings and arrests.

Diplomats and election observers were present at the hearing in Harare after Biti fled to Zambia but was handed back to Zimbabwean police despite claiming asylum.

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