AP Interview: Zimbabwe opposition chief warns of flawed vote

Zimbabwe's historic election on Monday is likely to be flawed and the opposition will launch peaceful protests if President Emmerson Mnangagwa wins in a disputed vote, the country's main opposition leader said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party, said the electoral commission has not adequately addressed concerns about voting procedures in what is being called Zimbabwe's most important election since independence in 1980.

The MDC won't boycott the country's first election since the resignation of longtime leader Robert Mugabe after a military takeover in November, Chamisa said. But he warned that there could be demonstrations by Zimbabweans if they conclude that the election was rigged.

"We have not said there is going to be a civil war. I am a civilian, so war, no. But in terms of maybe civil action by citizens, yes. Let the people express themselves within the confines of peace," Chamisa said in the AP interview at his office in the capital, Harare.

The 40-year-old lawyer and pastor, who has energized the MDC party since taking over in February following the death of its founding chief Morgan Tsvangirai, has protested the electoral commission's alleged lack of transparency in the handling of ballot papers and the voters' roll.

The commission has said the election will be free and fair, a statement echoed by Mnangagwa, a former deputy president who took over after Mugabe's exit from power and needs a credible vote to get years of international sanctions lifted. Voting under Mugabe was marred by violence and irregularities.

"We feel that the process itself is a flawed one, we feel that the outcome is contestable, we feel that things that were supposed to be done were not done," Chamisa said.

In the event of a contested election win by Mnangagwa, Chamisa said, the MDC party won't take any complaints to the courts despite election observers' urging to do so.

Chamisa, who has an ability to move crowds with fiery speeches, alleged that Zimbabwe's judicial system is biased in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

"We have seen that instead of getting jurisprudence, we get vengeance at a political level and even at a legal level and this is a problem," he said. "The court we have confidence in is the court of public opinion and the court of the people."


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