Tension mounts over Zimbabwe polls

Trickle of results leaves voters frustrated and fuels government vote-rigging charges.

    Official results for the presidential vote are not in but the opposition says Mugabe has just 30 per cent [AFP]
    The first official results released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) after presidential and legislative elections show the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) running neck-and-neck.
    The Zimbabwe Election Support Network says Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the MDC, has 49.4 per cent of the presidential vote, Mugabe 41.8 and Simon Makoni, a former minister and Mugabe loyalist, 8.2 per cent.
    Results for 89 of the 210 parliamentary seats released so far, show the MDC taking 41 seats while Zanu-PF pick up 43. A breakaway faction of the MDC has won five.
    Utoile Silaigwana, the deputy chief elections officer, declared partial results in nationwide radio and television broadcasts on Monday.

    The electoral commission says the delay is due to presidential and parliamentary elections being held at the same time and there being 60 constituencies more than in the last elections in 2005.
    But the piecemeal announcement has left observers questioning the transparency of the process.
    In previous elections, partial results had been announced within hours of the end of voting.

    Notable early results included defeat for Patrick Chinamasa, Mugabe's outgoing justice minister, in the rural eastern constituency of Makoni central.

    The MDC also won the first seat to be declared, the newly formed constituency of Chegutu West, to the west of Harare.

    Opposition claims

    The election commission is yet to announce any results in the race for the presidency.
    Earlier on Monday, the MDC said Tsvangirai, had 60 per cent of the votes compared to 30 per cent for Robert Mugabe, the country's president, based on unofficial counts reported from 128 of the country's 210 parliamentary districts.
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    Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary-general, said that sources at the ZEC said rigging was under way, aimed at giving Mugabe a 52 per cent victory in the presidential race, and his party 111 of the 210 House of Assembly seats.

    Tsvangirai lost narrowly in 2002, but observers charged that the election was rigged.

    A presidential candidate needs at least 50 per cent plus one vote to avoid a run-off.
    "The people have spoken against the dictatorship. We are anxiously waiting for the final results," Biti said.
    "We pray that there will not be re-creation and re-engineering of the people's will." 

    Growing impatience

    Al Jazeera's correspondents in the capital Harare and the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo said there was a lot of frustration because there was little heard from the ZEC for quite a while speculation was rife due to the delay.

    Some opposition supporters began celebrating
    after the MDC declared it was in the lead [AFP]

    Ebrahim Fakir, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera that the delay could be considered a win in the propaganda war for the opposition.

    He also said it was against Zimbabwean law to declare an electoral victory before all results were released and the opposition was being "disingenuous", and the claim of victory was "rhetorical".

    "We have also witnessed the lack of independent analysis and assessment of this election, and the lack of citizenry access to the political and democratic process in this country," Fakir said.

    High security

    Riot police patrolled Harare on Monday as the first results came in.

    Before the polls, police said they would crush any premature celebrations but they were taking a softer line on Monday after a weekend of impromptu victory parties by MDC supporters.

    "Police are very much still on high alert and appeal to those wanting to celebrate to do so with respect for other people," Wayne Bvudzijena, national police spokesman, said.

    "It's human to celebrate but they should not provoke, intimidate or insult others."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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