Zimbabwe election officials say opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai won nearly 48 percent of the vote in the March presidential elections and incumbent President Robert Mugabe scored just over 43 percent. Because neither candidate passed the 50 percent threshold, a runoff will be needed. A Zimbabwean official says President Robert Mugabe accepts his first-round defeat in last month's presidential election, and will take part in the runoff.  Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that the vote must be held within 21 days.

Even though a runoff is necessary, and even though many people in the street are fearful of a runoff, many are delighted to have had their belief that Mugabe had been defeated, confirmed.

In the street near the MDC's Harare headquarters, several street vendors said they knew they, meaning the MDC, had won. They said they hoped people in the rural areas would remain strong and would be at home to vote Mugabe out of office forever.

Following the elections on March 29, the MDC claimed Tsvangirai had won 50.3 percent of the vote based on its tally of official results from the national assembly and senate elections. But after reviewing its calculations this week it revised its figure slightly to 51.7 percent.

The official tally presented Friday by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission shows that Morgan Tsvangirai had won 47.9 percent of the vote and Mr. Mugabe won 43.2 percent. In order to win the presidential election, a candidate must receive 50 percent of the votes cast plus one, or face the runner-up in a runoff election. An agent for the MDC said the party would accept the results.

Zimbabwe's weekly newspaper, The Independent, said that Morgan Tsvangirai would return to Zimbabwe from South Africa to take part in the runoff.

Never in Zimbabwe's history have election results been delayed, nor has there ever been a recount as there were in 23 constituencies in the parliamentary poll.

The delay in releasing results from the election held five weeks ago has raised doubts about their legitimacy.

ZANU-PF, the party of Mr. Mugabe, also lost its parliamentary majority by a narrow margin.

Noel Kututwa, chairman of the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, ZESN, said his organization could not challenge the results, because he said, the MDC had insufficient data itself. He said there was no way a runoff could be held in the present political climate as, he said, there was too much violence in the rural areas.

He said people in the region, particularly the Southern African Development Community, should remind themselves that Robert Mugabe has claimed he has "degrees in violence." He said the region would have to work swiftly to ensure there was a free and fair environment for a runoff.

The former ZANU-PF finance minister, Simba Makoni, came in a distant third and has not yet said whether he will back Tsvangirai in the runoff. The MDC, which split into two factions in 2005, has now reunited, and the smaller group says it will campaign hard for Tsvangirai.