A SENIOR Zimbabwean opposition politician was briefly arrested while trying to cross into Zambia, sparking fears of a government crackdown after last week’s disputed presidential election.

Tendai Biti, finance minister in an uneasy coalition government from 2009 to 2013, is a leading member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

The arrest, after scenes of the military opening fire in the streets of the capital and growing opposition claims of harassment, further challenged the Zimbabwe president’s assertions of a “flowering” of democracy in the months after long-time leader Robert Mugabe stepped down under military pressure.

Biti sought asylum in Zambia but his request was rejected. He is now expected to face arrest at home.

The Movement for Democratic Change denounced the election win of President Emmerson Mnangagwa as fraudulent and vowed to challenge it in court this week.

Biti declared last week, before official election results were announced on Friday, that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa had won the vote. Chamisa also claimed he had been victorious.

“In a normal country Chamisa would be sworn in right now,” Biti said a day after the election.

The Zimbabwe electoral commission has said it is illegal to announce results before its own official pronouncement.

Mnangagwa was more restrained than the opposition during the vote count, saying only that the situation looked positive. However, some state-run media reports emphatically declared him the winner before the official results were out.

The opposition has seven days to file a court challenge after the results were announced.

Chamisa’s lawyer Thabani Mpofu said that they will file the challenge within the prescribed timeframe, pushing back Mnangagwa’s inauguration planned for Sunday.

Biti was named along with Chamisa in a search warrant issued last week that said they and several others were suspected of the crimes of “possession of dangerous weapons” and “subversive material” as well as “public violence”.

Police raided the opposition party headquarters a day after the military rolled into the capital, Harare, and dispersed protesting opposition supporters with gunfire.

Biti, one of the government’s most vocal critic, warned months before the election that the military was casting a shadow over hopes for genuine reform in Zimbabwe.