Zimbabwe Rejects Opposition Bid to Overturn Election Result

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s top court dismissed the main opposition’s bid to overturn the results of last month’s disputed presidential election.

The ruling confirms the victory of incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old former spy chief who has wooed international investors as part of his pledge to rebuild an economy devastated by decades of former President Robert Mugabe’s autocratic rule.

Zimbabwe Rejects Opposition Bid to Overturn Election Result

A nine-member panel of Constitutional Court judges found the Movement for Democratic Change’s challenge failed to provide evidence of irregularities in the vote, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said Friday in the capital, Harare. There is no avenue for appeal under Zimbabwean law.

“It is alleged there was rigging,” Malaba said. “The applicant made several allegations against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. No proof or evidence was adduced by the applicant.”

Economic Meltdown

Mnangagwa will now have to administer an economy in meltdown after two decades of misrule and corruption under Mugabe, who the ruling party forced to resign in November, and a broke Treasury that’s unable to service its loans or take out new ones. That will leave little scope to improve government services, rebuild crumbling infrastructure and meet a plethora of other election pledges.

He’ll also have to unify a nation that’s split down the middle between supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, and the opposition. Mnangagwa won the presidential vote with 50.8 percent of the ballots, a shade more than the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

“Zimbabwe has the most polarized electorate on the continent and Mnangagwa needs to heal that,” Eldred Masunungure, a professor of politics at the University of Zimbabwe, said by phone. “There is need for a political formula to heal Zimbabwe."

The MDC said that while it disagreed with some of the court’s findings, it would respect the decision.

Electoral Reforms

“We respect the Constitutional Court, but it’s also very important to say that in respecting their view of the result, we’re not accepting it and I respectfully disagree and reject the decision of the Constitutional Court,” Chamisa told reporters Saturday. The MDC will “use other doors to pursue legitimacy, like political doors and the door that allows peaceful protest,” he said.

Western and local observers said after the election that while the campaign and vote were largely peaceful, the electoral process was badly flawed. The dispute over the election outcome triggered demonstrations in Harare that led to the deaths of at least six people, when security forces fired on the protesters.

“The electoral process revealed improvements as well as challenges,” the European Union mission to Zimbabwe said in a statement after the ruling. “It is important that the new government engages all stakeholders in substantive discussions on the necessary reforms, including on further electoral reforms.”

Malaba’s main findings were that:

  • The MDC failed to seek an order to reopen sealed ballot boxes to compare the contents with the results posted outside polling stations within 48 hours. Had they done so, Malaba said, they’d have been able to prove their case
  • None of the allegations the MDC made against the ZEC could be proven because there was no unsealing and recounting of ballots
  • Though the MDC listed Mnangagwa as a respondent, they made no specific allegation against him, so the court could not rule even if it wanted to.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.