There is growing uncertainty in Zimbabwe as politicians and analysts realize that President Robert Mugabe is likely to face a run off after the March 29 elections. For VOA, Peta Thornycroft in Harare reports on the concerns.
Harare political scientist Eldred Masungurure says he believes the ruling party - Zanu PF - will try to bring off what he describes as "an electoral coup" when the results of the presidential balloting emerge after the elections next month.
He and other independent political analysts do not believe it will be possible for Mr. Mugabe to win an absolute majority, as for the first time in his political career he faces not one, but two strong candidates.
Mr. Mugabe would, Masungurure says, have to do massive amounts of rigging to win a majority.
Many independent analysts say that Morgan Tsvangirai, founding president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was cheated out of a narrow victory in the last presidential poll in 2002. Mr. Tsvangirai has considerable support in many urban areas, particularly in the capital, Harare.
One of the challengers President Mugabe is facing, Simba Makoni, had been a life long member of the ruling Zanu PF until he was expelled earlier this month, and has held senior positions in both the government and the party. Mr. Makoni says he has considerable support from many of his former colleagues in Zanu PF. Analysts say that means it will be more difficult for Mr. Mugabe's supporters to rig this election undetected.
Analysts point out that President Mugabe does not know which of the legislative candidates on the Zanu PF ticket will support Simba Makoni in the presidential poll.
Masungurure says it is hard to image that an already divided Zanu PF, having contested parliamentary, local government and senate elections on March 29, would be prepared or even able to stage a second round of presidential voting just 21 days later.
He said Zimbabweans should not be surprised if President Mugabe decides to break electoral laws if, as seems most likely, he does not win a clear majority.
He said Zimbabweans should look carefully at what happened in Kenya last month when President Mwai Kibaki quickly had himself sworn into power before any legal objections to the result could be launched by the opposition.
Patrick Chinamasa, a spokesman for Zanu PF who is also minister of justice, says a second round in the presidential poll will not be necessary as president Mugabe will win "resoundlingly." He described the opposition as "make shift" and he said Mr. Mugabe's opponents do not have a "platform or any cohesion."