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DateLine Sunday, 6 April 2008

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Zimbabwe election pressure mounts

Amid intensifying global scrutiny, Morgan Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change would issue its own results if the commission did not. Tsvangirai has said he is convinced he defeated President Robert Mugabe but that he will not claim victory until the official count is known. He denied rumours of a secret deal allowing Mr Mugabe to step down.

The MDC leader said no negotiations would take place until the final result was known. Bright Matonga, Zanu-PF's Deputy Information Minister, also rejected reports of a deal. MDC sources had earlier told the BBC the outline of an agreement had nearly been reached for Mr Mugabe to step down.

Parliamentary results released so far show that the MDC has 90 seats, including five for a breakaway faction of the party, against 85 for Zanu-PF, with 35 still to come.

Police and roadblocks In his first public appearance since the election, Mr Tsvangirai told a news conference on Tuesday evening there was "no way the MDC will enter in any deal before ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] has actually announced the result". But he said the MDC would issue its own tally of results if ZEC continues to withhold the official figures. They would be based on the figures which had to be posted by law outside each polling station after counting was completed.

While the atmosphere on Zimbabwe's streets remains peaceful, if tense, there are fears that prolonging the declaration of results could foment similar violent clashes to those which followed Kenya's contested elections in January.

Roadblocks have been set up around the capital, Harare, and there has been a marked increase in the presence of paramilitary police on the streets of major cities.

Coup warning

As pressure grew around the world for final results to be declared, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for calm.

He urged the "utmost transparency be exercised so that the people of Zimbabwe can have full confidence in the process". The White House said it was clear the people of Zimbabwe had "voted for change". The European Union called on the Zimbabwean president to resign, with its president warning there would be a "coup d'etat" if Mr Mugabe did not step down. "We don't want the situation to develop like in Kenya," said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel, whose country holds the EU presidency.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the BBC the fact that results had not been announced was very significant. "Even the dumbest of us would say that results would not have been held back... had it not been the fact that Mr Mugabe has not won," said the Nobel Peace Prize winner. "Had the Zanu PF won these elections we would have heard them crowing a long time ago."

Independent observers say Mr Tsvangirai seems to have taken the most votes in the presidential race. But it is not clear if he won more than the 50% needed to avoid a second run-off vote, which would have to be held three weeks after the 29 March election.

-BBC

 

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