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Zimbabwe opposition claims election win

President Robert Mugabe's government warns that premature victory claims would be seen as a 'coup.'

(Page 2 of 2)

In the suburbs of Harare, opposition celebration has been halted by heavily armed police, who have been deployed around the country to thwart any form of political violence.

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Government delaying results?

Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary-general, told a midmorning press conference in Harare that his party was increasingly getting worried by the continued delay in the announcement of the official results.

"We are very much concerned by the lack of results from [the Electoral Commission] and we suspect that the regime is at loss as to how to respond to the results which are showing that MDC is winning in most parts of the country," Mr. Biti said. "We suspect that there is a prima facie case of constitutional assault."

Biti went on to announce a list of initial results showing areas that his party has won, saying their lead is based on results posted overnight on the doors of polling stations, which party election agents sent by mobile phone text messages.

"It's a landslide," says Gordon Moyo, director of Bulawayo Agenda, a coalition of civil society groups in the western region of Matabeleland. "We expected the opposition to do well in urban areas like Harare and Bulawayo, but Tsvangirai is taking rural areas too, even in the heart of Mashonaland, where Mugabe gets his support."

"Mugabe can't rig the election now. He can't steal it like [President Mwai Kibaki] did in Kenya," he says. "The margin is too overwhelming now. The people will not stand down until their leaders are in charge."

For its part, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it does not know when final election results will be officially released.

Electoral Commission chairman George Chiweshe said he had "no idea" when he will start announcing the official results, since Zimbabwe is holding its first ever "harmonized" general elections with concurrent voting for local council, two houses of parliament, and the presidency.

While opposition activists have already begun announcing preliminary results from polling stations, Mr. Chiweshe said that "we haven't received a single result as yet."

At the commission national collation center in Harare, where all votes will be counted, the only visible sign of activity was a handful of young women typing.

Although voting in Saturday's elections was generally peaceful, the country's military chiefs have announced that security forces have been put on high alert.

Police Commissioner Gen. Augustine Chihuri said the police would not hesitate to use "full force" to stop politically motivated violence.

General Chihuri, together with Defense Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga and Zimbabwe Prisons Services boss Paradzai Zimondi have vowed not to salute anyone other than President Robert Mugabe, statements that many observers see as a veiled threat of a military coup if Tsvangirai wins.