Indications of the current election result verification process in Zimbabwe reportedly suggest that there will be an election run-off. But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) maintains it won the March 29 disputed elections. The MDC accused the Mugabe-led ZANU-PF government of trying to buy time with the ongoing results verification, adding that it is a calculated attempt to thwart the party of its election victory. The ruling ZANU-PF party rejects the opposition?s accusation, saying it is focusing on winning the election run-off.

Disputed presidential results out show MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai leading with 47 percent of the votes, while incumbent President Robert Mugabe follows closely with 43 percent. Simba Makoni, the only independent candidate, trails the two with 10 percent of the votes. Glen Mpani is a Zimbabwean political analyst with the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the MDC finds itself in a very difficult position.

?As you know, ever since the presidential election results have not been announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZANU-PF has been providing all sorts of indications that they are preparing for a run-off. And this was based on the fact that it was the only possible alternative that would be acceptable to them after the claim by the MDC that it had won the election. And I think if the evidence is there and it is true and confirmed that there is indeed no possible outright winner, it will go for a run-off,? Mpani pointed out.

He said the political climate in the country renders it difficult for an election run-off.

?But I think in a climate of an election result that has not been disclosed for the past four weeks, the credibility of that result is going to be questionable. And I don?t think the opposition would accept that considering that they had a parallel process, in which they have announced that Morgan Tsvangirai got 50 percent plus one, and he is the outright winner of the presidential election,? he said.

Mpani said the opposition?s fear of an uneven playing field in an election run-off is credible.

?The opposition is correct in indicating that the environment in Zimbabwe is not conducive for an election run-off. One, I think the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission neutrality and impartiality has been highly compromised by the way they have been flip-flopping and coming up with positions that are pro-ZANU-PF in nature, and I think their neutrality is very questionable. And I think the political violence in the country now where MDC supporters are being hounded from their areas, if the elections are going to be held at the level where a lot of people are displaced, that will work against the MDC,? Mpani noted.

He reiterated that the opposition stands at a big disadvantage if it participates in the election run-off.

?Their (MDC) concerns are very justified. If you read the number of reports that we are getting from Zimbabwe where within the rural areas people are being burned, their houses are being run down. The country is under siege by ZANU-PF thugs. Their (MDC) claim is quite right that even if they are to go out and start campaigning, they are more or less exposing their supporters to further beatings by ZANU-PF. And I think going for an election in that environment in all fairness, it does not present an environment that can allow one to express their views openly because at least now they know what is going to come out of an election, and there are not guarantees of their security. One of the major challenges for the MDC is to be able to convince their supporters that after the election, they are going to be protected,? he said.