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Africa

Zimbabwe's elections were fair, court rules

The way is now clear for President Robert Mugabe to be confirmed in office after the Constitutional Court threw out a legal challenge to his landslide victory.The opposition say their struggle will continue.

President Robert Mugabe can now look forward to being inaugurated once again as president of Zimbabwe - his seventh consecutive term in office. He has ruled the southern African country since independence in 1980.

On Tuesday (20.08.2013) the country's constitutional court ruled that the elections held on 31 July had been free and fair. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, had alleged the elections had been marred by fraud and vote rigging. However the party withdrew its legal challenge after the court refused to hand over polling data which the MDC said it needed as evidence for its claims. Despite this, the court considered the challenge.

MDC to fight on

Tuesday's decision came as little surprise to many observers in Zimbabwe and abroad, for whom a Mugabe victory was never in serious doubt.

MDC lawyer and spokesman Douglas Mwonzora (Photo. Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

MDC lawyer Douglas Mwonzora says the party has not run out of options

Speaking to the press after the court's verdict, MDC lawyer Douglas Mwonzora said they were not giving up. "We have not run out of options, we are preparing to govern the country. We do not recognize this election. This election was a monumental fraud."

Mwonzora said the MDC was in this situation "because we could not have the material that we wanted to prosecute our case. We have not been accorded justice."

For Mugabe's lawyer Terence Hussein, the ruling "has brought stability. It has brought certainty.We can now all move on. I think we now know who our president is for the next five years," he told the assembled reporters.

Policy modifications possible

In an interview with DW's Africalink program, Gwinyayi Dzinesa, an expert on Zimbabwe with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said it remained to be seen how President Mugabe would now "play his international politics." One key concern abroad, Dzinesa said, was the policy of economic empowerment, known as indigenization.

Supporters of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party hold a coffin symbolising the defeat of the MDC (Photo: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

For Mugabe 's supporters, the MDC's hopes are now dead and buried

This compels foreign-owned companies operating in Zimbabwe to sell a controlling stake to local, black Zimbabweans. According to Dzinesa, "one should not rule out that President Mugabe might actually modify the implementation of the policy in order to charm international investors and try to normalize Zimbabwe's international relations." That could see members of the western community "trying to constructively engage President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF government."

On the eve of the court ruling, the US said it would only lift sanctions imposed on President Mugabe if he now implements political reforms. This followed a weekend summit of leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) states who called for sanctions to be lifted. However a State Department spokesperson reiterated the US position that targeted sanctions would remain in place as long as there was no sign of "credible, transparent, peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people."

The inauguration of President Mugabe, who earlier told critics they could "go hang", is expected to take place on Thursday 22 August. At the end of his five-year term in office he will be 94. Under the constitution he could then run for one final five-year term.

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