President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party Monday took a slight lead in Zimbabwe’s weekend general election, and the opposition immediately cried foul.
After a count in 79 constituencies, ZANU-PF had won 43 seats, the MDC 41 and independents and smaller parties six.
In the early stages of the vote count and announcement of results Monday, the governing party and the opposition were neck and neck.
But later in the afternoon, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said ZANU-PF had taken a lead of two parliamentary seats against the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which Sunday claimed victory based on unofficial early returns.
The MDC, whose supporters and officials took to the streets Sunday to celebrate victory, said the government was rigging Saturday’s vote, which also simultaneously included that for president, local councils and the two houses of parliament.
A long delay, of more than 24 hours, in releasing the results of the poll fuelled the speculation the government was tampering with ballots.
MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said the party had won 60 percent of the vote in the presidential contest, but the authorities were preparing to declare Mugabe winner with 52 percent.
He did not give evidence to back up his claims, but he warned the party would not accept defeat.
The election was closely fought and, up till now, analysts said it was difficult to predict who would win.
Almost six million voters were registered to vote.
Full results are not expected until late Tuesday at the latest, and security forces have been placed on full alert in case of violence arising from disputes over the election results. Panapress.