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Zimbabwe Crisis May Continue, Despite Ruling Party Win

Election officials in Zimbabwe say the ruling ZANU-PF party is leading with a majority 62 of the 120 seats contested in Thursday's election. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is trailing with 35 seats, but is hinting it may not accept the result.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the poll result is not acceptable because of what he called massive fraud. Mr. Tsvangirai tells VOA he does not believe the result is a true reflection of the people of Zimbabwe, because, he says, some of them voted out of fear.

"Well, we were hoping that, given the fact that there was some degree in the reduction in the public violence that the people would be allowed to express themselves. But we know there has been so much overt activities taking place, to intimidate, and that's why the residual fear in some of the constituencies," he said.

President Robert Mugabe has dismissed claims of fraud as "nonsense."

Thursday's vote was conducted smoothly, with no incidents of violence. But a Southern African regional observer mission said it was concerned that some voters were turned away from polling stations.

The Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, appears to have held on to almost all the urban seats it won in 2000, but to have lost ground to President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party in rural areas.

Mr. Mugabe's former information minister, Jonathan Moyo, is the only one of a group of those who ran as independents to win a seat. Mr. Moyo was kicked out of the ruling ZANU-PF for defying a party directive not to stand as an independent. He had been dropped from the candidate list for organizing a meeting unsanctioned by the party leadership.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic and political crisis since independence in 1980. President Mugabe's sometimes-violent land reform, and the elections of 2000 and 2002 mired in violence, led to deterioration in relations between Zimbabwe and mostly western countries.

Mr. Tsvangirai says the way the election was conducted will make it difficult for Zimbabwe to mend the broken fences. "(Mr.) Mugabe's looking for legitimacy. He's going to fight for it, but, unfortunately, he's using the wrong means to achieve it. And, it doesn't matter what African leaders do to help him achieve that legitimacy. No one in his right mind, will restore that legitimacy," he said.

The MDC leadership is meeting Saturday to chart a way forward.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is announcing the results as they trickle in. It has said that the announcement of results will not go beyond 48 hours after polling stations closed at seven pm local time on Thursday.