Zimbabwe’s highest court said it will rule Tuesday on a legal battle over disputed elections that gave President Robert Mugabe a landslide victory, even though the opposition dropped its challenge in protest to the state’s refusal to hand over polling data. Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court on Monday heard demands by Mugabe’s attorneys for a hearing to go ahead despite the opposition’s withdrawal, apparently reflecting the president’s confidence that the court will throw out the case and strengthen his assertions that the vote was legitimate. Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, appoints the nation’s judges and they have frequently ruled in his favor in the past decade of political and economic turmoil. Terrence Hussein, an attorney for Mugabe, said a challenge to the presidential vote cannot be withdrawn under the constitution.
The party of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai fears participation in the legal process would now give a stamp of credibility to the election. “We can’t be forced to go ahead,” said Douglas Mwonzora, a spokesman for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
Tsvangirai alleged widespread vote-rigging but withdrew the legal challenge on Friday after the state election commission declined to hand over voters’ lists and poll tallies needed for evidence.
Opposition leaders said the proposed hearing also did not allow trial-style cross examination of witnesses and that they did not expect to receive a fair hearing on an appeal for fresh elections within 60 days.