Still... it doesn't look good. Here's a piece from Monday's Australian:
Whisper that voters dare shout
Catherine Philp in Bulawayo
WITH a third of Zimbabwe's votes counted, the Opposition claimed victory but President Robert Mugabe is nowhere to be seen.
It started as a whisper, and then became a shout. The heavyset matron lumbered, murmuring, up to the polling station and peered at the neatly written lists bearing the results.
Then she turned around and tottered down the steps, almost at a sprint. “We’re winning,” she shrieked.
But as station after station slapped its results up on the wall and Zimbabwe’s Opposition claimed its noisy victory, the official silence from Harare, the capital, was deafening.
President Mugabe was nowhere to be seen, and in the corridors of the election commission reporters pursued the hapless election chief demanding an official announcement of the results already pouring in from around the country.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, had fanned out workers around the country to relay back each count as it was posted.
Yesterday morning, with a third of the results in hand, they claimed a victory of more than 60 per cent, unwilling to wait for official word from the commission.
“This far — short of a miracle — we have won this election beyond any reasonable doubt,” Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary-general, told a press conference in Harare. He accused the election commission of holding back its announcement in an attempt to massage the results and steal the election for Mr Mugabe.
“The regime is at a loss and it is taking its time deliberately,” he said. Election observers added to the clamour, warning Harare not to stall further as the results were already in the public domain.
George Chiweshe, the chairman of the election commission, said that it was important not to rush, telling reporters the first results would be announced at 6am today. “It’s an absolute necessity that all results be meticulously analysed,” he said.
Observer groups who also collected results posted at polling stations confirmed that their figures matched those of the MDC. “I have no doubt that the large part, if not all, results are known,” Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliament observers, said. “It is frustrating.”
Observers cautioned that any further delay would only exacerbate tensions in the country. “Clearly the delay is fuelling speculation that something might be going on,” Noel Kututwa, head of the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, said.
In the days before the elections, Mr Mugabe repeatedly warned the Opposition that they must accept his inevitable victory to avoid Kenya-style post-election violence. With the mounting results in the Opposition’s favour, and still no official count, tensions were rising.
Riot police, armoured vehicles and water cannon were deployed to the streets of Harare and the southern city of Bulawayo last night, dispersing celebrating opposition supporters who had taken, dancing, to the streets, making the sign of an open hand, the symbol of Mr Tsvangirai’s party.
In Bulawayo police dispersed MDC supporters and party workers who had gathered at a command centre. In Harare, in the slums of Mbare, a long-time opposition stronghold, drivers hooted their horns as Tsvangirai supporters danced and sang “Give Tsvangirai his chance”. Mr Tsvangirai is widely held to have been the real winner of elections in 2002 and 2005, but was robbed of victory by vote rigging for Mr Mugabe.
“We don’t trust the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission), which is not independent,” Mr Biti said, explaining why the party had not waited for the official announcement. The commission had warned the MDC against declaring, claiming that it was illegal, but party lawyers argued that the information was already in the public domain.
“We made a mistake in 2002 by not claiming our victory. We made a mistake in 2005 by not claiming our victory. We will not accept the results of any stolen election.”
On Saturday Mr Mugabe’s spokesman fired a warning shot to Mr Tsvangirai not to claim early victory. “He announces results, declares himself and the MDC winner and then what?” George Charamba said. “Declare himself President of Zimbabwe? It is called a coup d’état and we all know how coups are handled.”
Zimbabwe’s security chiefs issued a similar warning on Friday, but nothing further has been heard since news of the results began trickling out.
Figures produced by the MDC indicated that in the parliamentary election it had virtually wiped out the ruling Zanu (PF) in Harare and Bulawayo, winning 28 out of 29 seats and 12 out of 12 seats respectively. At least six Cabinet ministers were reported to have lost their seats and one, the Education Minister, went on television to announce his resignation as the votes turned against him in his constituency.
Rural constituencies that had never voted for the Opposition before were among those that the MDC claimed as theirs, including several in the ruling party’s Mashonaland stronghold, and Mr Mugabe’s home town itself.
The parliamentary vote, held alongside the presidential vote, is believed to be indicative of overall voting trends. At polling stations across Bulawayo, long an opposition city, results lists showed meagre returns for Mr Mugabe. At one station, he polled zero.
“What can he do with zero?” Ignatius Dixon, a street vendor, asked. “Nothing. He should leave State House now, so our man can move in.”
But others were more cautious, unable to believe that the man who has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades, taking it from prosperity to destitution, could be on his way out.
Mr Mugabe’s whereabouts were unknown last night, with rumours circulating that he had departed for Malaysia on election day.