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Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 16:59 UK

Zimbabwe's rivals neck and neck

Zimbabweans in Harare read a local newspaper
Some newspaper vendors are selling papers for three times the cover price

Almost two-thirds of Zimbabwe's parliamentary results have been declared, with the ruling party and opposition very close.

Zanu-PF has 64 seats, while the opposition has 67, with 79 yet to come.

In the presidential race, there is increasing speculation that a run-off may be needed between President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

This is the projection from both an independent monitoring group and what Zanu-PF sources have told Reuters.

The electoral commission has urged people to be patient while Saturday's votes are checked.

Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says he won and the delay is to allow the outcome to be rigged.

ELECTION RESULTS SO FAR
Parliamentary constituencies
MDC-Tsvangirai: 62
Zanu-PF: 64
Breakaway MDC faction: 5
Yet to declare: 79
Presidential results
None so far
Winner needs more than 50% to avoid run-off
Source: ZEC

Results according to ZESN:
Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC: 49%
Robert Mugabe, Zanu-PF: 42%
Simba Makoni, Independent: 8%

More than half the parliamentary results have been released, with Zanu-PF and the MDC very close.

Five of the opposition seats have gone to a breakaway faction of the MDC.

A BBC correspondent inside Zimbabwe says people are finding the delay difficult to accept, as they can see the results of local voting posted at polling stations throughout the country.

The streets of the capital, Harare, have been quiet, but security in parts of the city is tight.

Zimbabweans are eager to know the results and the AFP news agency reports that newspaper vendors have been selling papers at three times the cover price.

Mr Mugabe insisted that the vote would be free and fair.

A Zanu-PF spokesman says Mr Mugabe is heading for re-election, but would accept defeat.

Neither Mr Mugabe nor Mr Tsvangirai have appeared in public since the election.

'Coup d'etat'

Dimitrij Rupel, foreign minister of Slovenia, which holds the European Union presidency, has called on Mr Mugabe to step down, AFP reports.

"If Mr Mugabe continues, it will be a coup d'etat," he said in Brussels after addressing MPs at the European Parliament.

If there's a run-off, Mugabe will unleash violence, like in previous elections
Hebson Makuvise
MDC London spokesman

Earlier, foreign ministers from seven European Union countries "called on the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission to swiftly announce all official election results, especially the results of the presidential election".

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says Mr Tsvangirai got 49% of the vote, against 42% for Mr Mugabe and 8% for independent candidate Simba Makoni.

If correct, these results would mean a run-off would be required within three weeks.

It based its projected results on a sample of 435 of the 9,000 polling stations, which it says were analysed by independent statisticians.

ZESN head Noel Kututwa said "the public needs to know, everyone is anxious to know who their next president is going to be".

Rumours

Two Zanu-PF sources told Reuters news agency that their party's projections were similar, with 48% for Mr Tsvangirai, against 43% for Mr Mugabe.

"We are looking at a re-run," the source said.

Zanu-PF supporters celebrating in Harare
Activists from both sides have been celebrating the partial results

However, BBC correspondent Peter Greste urges these figures to be treated with caution, as the ruling party is divided at the moment.

The MDC claims Mr Tsvangirai has won 60% of the presidential vote, against 30% for President Robert Mugabe.

MDC spokesman in London Hebson Makuvise has vehemently denied a report that talks are underway between opposition and ruling party officials about the possibility of Mr Mugabe stepping down.

"There is nothing like that," he told the BBC.

He also said that the MDC would reject the official results unless Mr Tsvangirai was declared the winner.

"If there's a run-off, Mugabe will unleash violence, like in previous elections."

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament observer mission, told South African radio on Tuesday that some senior Zanu-PF officials were contemplating life after Mr Mugabe. "I was talking to some of the big-wigs in the ruling party and they also are concerned about the possibility of a change of guard," he said.

Rumours have circulated as people await results, and government has been forced to deny speculation that Mr Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, had gone to Malaysia or was planning to impose a state of emergency.

Presidential, House of Assembly, Senate and local elections were all held on Saturday, and election officials say that this is why results have been slow to come.


video and audio news
The MDC appeal for President Mugabe to concede



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