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Zimbabwe Election Results Delay Heightens Fears of Rigging


Independent analysts are expressing fears that the delay in announcing the result of the Zimbabwe elections is an indication that vote rigging is underway. Meanwhile, head of Zimbabwe's main opposition party Morgan Tsvangiari denies reports that his party is in talks with advisers to President Robert Mugabe about president giving up power. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

The trickle of results being released by the Zimbabwe Elections Commission in Harare, nearly four days after the polls closed, is being widely condemned. The chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, Moeletsi Mbeki, told VOA he suspects manipulation.

"Since the results are available, but are not being announced by the people who are supposed to announce them, the only conclusion one draws is that they are trying to massage the results to give them the outcomes that Mugabe and his party want to see," said Moeletsi Mbeki.

Mbeki is referring to the fact that when votes in the parliamentary, senate and local elections had been counted at each polling station the result was certified by local representatives of the Elections Commission and posted at the door. They were then forwarded to regional offices to be compiled and sent on to the Commission's central office in Harare.

In the case of the presidential vote, the results were sent directly from each polling station to Harare.

In the past these process have happened very quickly, with the outcome of the election being known the day following the poll.

On poll day, President Robert Mugabe scoffed at suggestions there would be vote rigging. And, on Sunday the head of the commission told reporters that because four elections were, for the first time, held simultaneously, delays were inevitable.

These assurances have not convinced many Zimbabweans and independent observers who have pointed to about three million extra ballot papers printed for the election. Mbeki says the plan was to add ghost voters, but he said the apparent excellent showing by the opposition caught the government off-guard.

"But they under-estimated the number of ghost voters that they had to put in, in order to win the constituencies, so the big vote for MDC overwhelmed the ghost voters as well, and now they are faced with the MDC winning the election," said Mbeki.

The piecemeal results have had the opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF party neck and neck.

No results from the presidential contest have been released.

Mr. Mugabe is one of Africa's longest serving leaders and has in the past been accused of manipulating election results to maintain his lock on power.

In order to avoid a presidential run-off election within 21 days, one of the cnadidates must get at least 51 percent of the vote, plus one.

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