Mugabe rival withdraws vote challenge

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn a legal challenge against last month's disputed presidential election which extended rival Robert Mugabe's rule, his MDC party said Friday, claiming the courts would not be fair.

"The prime minister has withdrawn his election petition," Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said.

"The main reason is that this trial was going to be a mockery of justice," he added.

Tsvangirai has rejected the July 31 vote which handed him 34 percent of the ballot and declared his rival Mugabe the winner with 61 percent.

Tsvangirai claims the vote was rigged and he has called for a fresh election to be held.

The Constitutional Court would have heard arguments on Saturday to decide whether a full trial was necessary.

The MDC said election organisers were blocking key documents needed in the case.

"It is extremely doubtful whether the MDC will receive a fair hearing," said party spokesman Mwonzora.

"Without this crucial material available to the MDC, the MDC will be prejudiced in the prosecution of this very important case," said Mwonzora.

The withdrawal paves the way for veteran leader Mugabe to be inaugurated for another five year term, extending his 33 year rule.

The MDC is still likely to keep up efforts to convince the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that the vote was rigged.

Election observers from the regional bloc have said the polls were free, but have not yet commented on the vote's fairness.