United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, left, is seen during a courtesy call with Zimbabwean President elect Emmerson Mnangagwa at his official residence State House in Harare, Wednesday, Aug, 15, 2018. Nichols emphasised the need to respect human rights as Zimbabwe awaits a court ruling on whether the election results are valid. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe president urges court to toss opposition challenge

August 15, 2018 - 12:20 pm

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Lawyers representing Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa have filed papers urging the country's Constitutional Court to throw out an opposition challenge to his election.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party won the July 30 election in this politically and economically troubled southern African country's first election without former longtime ruler Robert Mugabe on the ballot. The electoral commission said Mnangagwa received 50.8 percent of the vote and main challenger Nelson Chamisa received 44.3 percent.

The main opposition MDC party filed a legal challenge to the results on Friday alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that Chamisa was the winner.

On Wednesday, Mnangagwa's lawyers dismissed the challenge as "political."

"We are more than confident, there is no evidence of direct manipulation. This is a political gamesmanship. Let's see if that evidence is admissible in court," said Lewis Uriri, who is leading Mnangagwa's team of lawyers, including some hired from neighboring South Africa.

Chamisa's challenge "has no legal merit," said Paul Mangwana, a lawyer and the ZANU-PF spokesman.

Mnangagwa was forced to cancel an inauguration ceremony planned for last Sunday because of the court challenge. Zimbabwe's law states that the court must rule within 14 days of the filing.

The case brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military shooting in the streets, in which six people were killed, and reports that opposition supporters have been harassed and beaten.

Some in the country have expressed doubt that the court will be able to remain neutral.

"I think the courts will have to prove to the people of Zimbabwe that they are weighing the facts of the case and considering them carefully and rendering an impartial judgment," the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, said Wednesday afternoon after meeting with Mnangagwa.

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This version corrects to say the court must rule within 14 days of the filing.

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