As the count continues following Thursday's parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, the country's government-owned papers are in celebratory mood, keen to take pride in what they believe to have been an "extraordinarily peaceful" vote.
The MDC says the election was not free or fair
But in the main opposition daily, and in papers elsewhere in Africa, most commentators are convinced that the outlook for Zimbabweans remains bleak.
The 2005 general election has been extraordinarily peaceful and exceptionally well-organised... The whole of Zimbabwe, all political parties, the candidates and police, can take the credit for the almost total lack of violence and intimidation... It is sad that so many voters decided not to make an effort to choose their new parliament. Both major parties will have to think hard about why large numbers were not excited about this election, and come up with solutions that will make more see just how important an election is.
Zimbabwe's government-owned Herald
If [the ruling] Zanu-PF wins this election, its victory would be partly attributed to its record of political violence. There are people who will vote for the party because they fear that not voting for it could result in beatings by Zanu-PF youths... If Zanu-PF wins again, the prospects for Zimbabwe's survival are bleak. If Zanu-PF wins through rigging the election, then real tragedy might ensue.
Zimbabwe's opposition Daily News (31 March)
We would like to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for the peaceful campaign and urge them to celebrate their victories and losses in their respective constituencies in peace... By remaining peaceful, the sovereign people of Zimbabwe put to shame prophets of doom who hoped to incite violence among the people to discredit our democratic system.
Zimbabwe's government-owned Chronicle (31 March)
Whatever the outcome, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the region need to be prepared to deal with fallout. The effect of any such fallout on the lives of Zimbabweans will depend on how it is managed, both internally and by the global community.
South Africa's Business Day (31 March)
South Africa's continued stance must be to help manage a bad situation in Zimbabwe from becoming worse. There is, for instance, a flickering sign of an economic recovery which we must assist. The next step is to prepare the ground for Mugabe's departure, which must happen before the next presidential election in 2008. Better still, can Pretoria persuade the old man that an early retirement will be in his and the country's best interest?
South Africa's Star (31 March)
Dr Mugabe has helped perpetuate a stereotype of African leaders as incompetent power-hungry maniacs, who begin well, but go on to wreck their countries decades later when they are senile. If his party wins, Zimbabwe's misery will continue. If it loses, the MDC [opposition Movement for Democratic Change] is not the kind of robust party that can be expected to turn things around quickly. The result will be an opposition which raises hopes with victory, but dashes them once in power... Africa should learn from the Zimbabwe case not to allow political parties and leaders to stay in power until they become hopeless.
The outcome is assured: Zanu-PF will once again win in a big way, despite its unpopularity. This is because the parliamentary elections take place in a climate that rules out the possibility of a free and fair poll.
Botswana's Mmegi (31 March)
It is impossible to think of a final peaceful settlement... with Mugabe still at the helm of affairs... The septuagenarian ex-comrade is no longer part of the solution but central to the problem... He has developed a siege psychosis, grandiose paranoia and neo-fascist mentality which make him see all opponents, whether within his party, the government or in the country, as traitors.
Tajudeen Abdulraheem in Uganda's New Vision (31 March)
Zimbabwe looks set to slip deeper into the quagmire of economic misfortune; a country that once fed southern Africa with its food surplus has degenerated into a ruthless land of misery and fear, thanks to the Zanu-PF party. The world looks on aghast as an estimated 750,000 are in imminent danger of starvation. The only option left to the world is to employ 'forcible' means - yet would the ends justify these means?
Oliver Kinsey Smith in Ghana's The Ghanaian Chronicle (31 March)
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