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Zimbabwe Waits to Learn Outcome of Election


Zimbabweans are anxiously waiting for the results of four elections held Saturday. Election monitors in say tensions are rising as people wait for the release of official results. Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that political parties have been announcing the outcome at many individual polling stations around the country. The chairman of Zimbabwe's election commission says results from Saturday general elections will be announced early Monday.

With the exception of the presidential election, the outcomes of the parliament, senate and local government polls have to be collected at the regional level and then transmitted to the Zimbabwe Election Commission in Harare.

Some rural telephone lines are not working and mobile networks are barely functioning. Some results in remote mountainous areas will have to be taken by foot or vehicle to the nearest urban center.

The results for the presidential vote go directly from the polling stations to Harare.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change claimed victory early in the day, based on what the party says was a clean sweep in the second city, Bulawayo, and in the urban areas of the three Mashonaland provinces in central Zimbabwe, traditional strongholds of the ruling ZANU-PF.

In elections in 2002 and 2005 the party also claimed victory early on, but lost in the final outcome. International observers ruled both of those elections flawed. It is still unclear how many people voted.

Many commentators believe that even though there were more polling stations than expected, voter turnout was low. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network says it believes there was a fair turnout, but is still busy compiling its statistics.

Founding MDC legal secretary, David Coltart, who was standing for the senate in Bulawayo, says he recorded 16,000 people turned up to vote in a constituency of more than 40,000 registered voters.

And Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the M.D.C., says the voter rolls have been heavily padded, creating rich opportunities for rigging the poll. The Election Commission has denied such allegations.

On the eve of these crucial elections, with Zimbabwe's economy in collapse and inflation soaring beyond 100,000 percent, security services warned they were on high alert, and would crush any protests against results.

Most election observers from African countries have said that so far their impressions on election day were that the process had gone reasonably smoothly.

President Robert Mugabe who is now 84, is seeking a sixth term in office. He is challenged by the M.D.C.'s Tsvangirai, in his second attempt to win a majority of the presidential vote; and newcomer, Simba Makoni, formerly a ruling ZANU-PF party insider and finance minister.

Some observers say Makoni's entry to the presidential race demonstrated the ruling party is deeply divided; and some analysts say votes for him and candidates supporting him, will have robbed Mr Mugabe and his party of crucial support.

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