With less than 20 seats in the parliament elections still outstanding, Zimbabwe's state-controlled Herald newspaper has reported the possibility the ruling ZANU-PF has not won the parliament elections - the first hint by any organization loyal to the ruling party that President Robert Mugabe and his party have failed to win an outright victory in the elections held last Saturday. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare the official results in the parliament election are expected Wednesday.
The official announcement of the final result will end days of speculation, rumor and tension - prompted by the delay in officially releasing the results, which had already been published at individual polling stations.
Morgan Tsvangirai - leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and his party's candidate for president - warns that he will release the results, whether or not the Zimbabwe Elections Commission does so.
"We on our part will [Wednesday] disclose the totals from our count based on published returns at polling stations," he said.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has been swept by speculation that there are talks between the opposition and officials loyal to Mr. Mugabe to arrange a so-called dignified exit from power for Mr. Mugabe.
An African diplomat in Harare, who prefers to remain anonymous, tells VOA says there has been informal contact between Tsvangirai and some military generals to determine whether or not the 84-year-old Zimbabwean leader and his party will accept the results. Mr. Tsvangirai has denied any contacts or discussions ahead of official release of results.
Many in ZANU-PF, including the military, have conceded privately that Mr. Tsvangirai and his party have narrowly won all four elections: for legislature, the presidency, the senate and for local government.
MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti tells VOA he believes Mr. Mugabe is tired and wants to retire.
"There are hawks and doves in Mugabe's courtyard who have school fees to pay in South Africa, Australia and so forth who are saying, Shefe, you cannot go. The courtiers are propping him up but the old man is tired, he doesn't want anymore," said Biti. "I think he's tired, I think he's tired. He has lost the energy."
Diplomats also tell VOA some presidents from the Southern African Development Community are on standby to come to Harare, if their presence is needed to ensure a smooth transition.
SADC initiated dialogue between the MDC and ZANU-PF, last year. That process, facilitated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, prompted some amendments to electoral laws. These, in turn, ensured greater freedoms by candidates to campaign and less restrictions on some media. The changes also built in mechanisms in counting procedures which enabled independent observers and opposition parties greater ability to check that the polls had not been rigged.
MDC leader Tsvangirai says that there are some results within the system which the MDC is disputing and that is holding back official announcements.
Many analysts have praised Tsvangirai and his colleagues, saying they have acted with great restraint over the last three days. They say this bodes well for a peaceful transition, if Mr. Mugabe is going to leave office after 28 years in power.