Mugabe foes claim victory

The Baltimore Sun

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The main opposition party pressed its claim yesterday that it had won a landslide election victory to unseat Zimbabwe President Robert G. Mugabe, but the government said nothing about the presidential vote 48 hours after ballots had been cast. The only official announcement was that both sides were tied in early parliamentary results.

At a news conference yesterday, officials from the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, claimed to have seen the results from more than half of the constituencies and that, according to their calculations, the opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, had won 60 percent of the presidential vote to beat the 84-year-old Mugabe. He has been president for 28 years.

Meanwhile, the electoral commission published the first parliamentary results from the election Saturday, which showed the opposition and Mugabe's party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, so far winning 12 seats each.

Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary general, complained that so few results had been announced. "Why should we be sitting here 48 hours after the election without results?" he said. "It is unacceptable."

The unofficial results cited by the opposition had been compiled by adding the vote counts posted at thousands of individual polling stations, and were not formally released by the government. Indeed, the nation's chief election officer warned Sunday that the opposition's boasts were premature and asked people to wait for official totals.

People have done just that, anxiously watching the government television station for announcements about the election Saturday. But instead of news they were shown irrelevant fare like a program about biodegradable Chinese plastic and a documentary about the Netherlands' 1974 soccer team.

On Sunday near midnight, the election commissioner, George Chiweshe, finally announced that the official results would begin coming out at 6 a.m. yesterday. At the appointed hour, no results were forthcoming. "It is of absolute necessity that at each stage the result be meticulously analyzed, witnessed and confirmed," he said. Soon after the designated time, an election official began laboriously reading results, but only of six parliamentary races. Later yesterday, results for the first 24 parliamentary races were broadcast on radio and television.

Yesterday, the United States urged Zimbabwe to quickly count the votes, saying a delay could raise questions about the fairness of tabulations.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters that the United States is concerned by the slow pace of the official tabulation.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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