Monday, March 31, 2008
HARARE, ZIMBABWE -- The main opposition party and independent observers said today that President Robert Mugabe was suffering a resounding defeat as election results were tallied, but no official returns were released and capital was rife with speculation that they were being rigged.
Tension was high in the capital, Harare, with police deployed on most corners as the delay in announcing results from Saturday's balloting wore on. Usually, the first official results are released within hours of the polls' closing.
There were unconfirmed reports that key ministers and Mugabe loyalists lost their seats in parliament.
In a briefing to diplomats, independent election observers said that with 66% of the vote counted, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, had 55% of the vote. Mugabe, 84, had 36% and ruling party defector Simba Makoni had 9%, it said.
Tsvangirai's party said that with 12% of the polling stations reporting, he was winning 67%.
The estimate was based on figures posted at individual polling stations after election officials had signed off on them, the first time such counts have been posted under recent reforms to election law.
"The wave of change was too strong," said one shocked official of the ruling ZANU-PF, who lost his seat. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said conditions were extremely tense, with speculation rife in the ruling party that the military might step in to back Mugabe and block the opposition from taking power...