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Official Results Show Dead Heat in Zimbabwe Elections; Opposition Claims Big Lead

By VOA News
31 March 2008

Zimbabwe's main opposition party is claiming victory in the country's general elections, but the country's electoral commission says the main opposition and the ruling party are tied.

In the latest tally given late Monday in a slow release of results from Saturday's vote, election officials say the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have so far won 26 parliamentary seats each. A total of 210 constituencies are being contested.

The MDC disputes the results, saying its own tally shows the party winning seats in 96 out of 128 parliamentary districts where results have been posted.

No results from the presidential election are available more than 48 hours after the end of voting, but the MDC says party founder Morgan Tsvangirai is leading President Robert Mugabe in the presidential race 60 to 30 percent.

The United States on Monday joined other governments and the Zimbabwean opposition in expressing concern over election results delay and called on the election commission to publish them as quickly as possible.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said delay only increases the possibility for mischief in the vote-counting process. He called on the electoral commission to put aside partisan sympathies and do the right thing -- to follow the letter and spirit of the law and ensure an honest and accurate vote-count.

The election commission chairman, George Chiweshe, blames the delay on the complexity of the vote -- for president, for members of parliament and for local officials -- and the need to verify results.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence in 1980. He was opposed in the election by Mr. Tsvangirai and independent candidate Simba Makoni, a former Mugabe ally who broke with the ruling party.

If no presidential candidate wins a majority, the two top contenders will compete in a runoff.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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