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Will Mugabe go out like a lion or a lamb?

President Robert Mugabe and his top advisers will hold a Politburo meeting on Friday to decide what to do next.

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Calls to step down quietly

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Mugabe's former information minister, Jonathan Moyo, told journalists in Harare that Mugabe should opt out of the run-off in order to salvage what is left of his dignity.

"Why should the president, given all he has done for this country, subject himself to such indignity?" asked Moyo, who recently won a House of Assembly seat as an independent. "This is a runoff he cannot win. He must realize that, having lost the first round, he cannot win the second. Mugabe and members of his party, ZANU-PF, should be gracious in defeat."

Moyo describes the delay in announcing the results of Saturday's presidential race as a chance for authorities to "manage the defeat."

"The chief secretary to the president and cabinet does not even know what to do because he has never been in such a situation before," said Moyo. "Part of the reason for the delay is because there is anxiety [within the security forces], especially those service chiefs who unwisely, or rather foolishly, told the whole world that they would not salute any other winner than Mugabe."

In Harare, police presence is very high. Antiriot water-cannon tankers have been stationed at major police stations and strategic areas, probably an attempt to intimidate the electorate and opposition supporters from holding rallies.

Friday's Politburo meeting is likely to decide when the results will be released, and sources say the results could come immediately after the politburo meeting ends on Friday.

Meanwhile, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change continues to insist that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has won the presidential race outright, and does not need to participate in a runoff.

Yet MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said on Thursday that if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announces results that are different from the MDC's 50.3 percent and call for a runoff, the MDC will verbally protest but participate nonetheless.

Mr. Biti said the MDC is confident of an overwhelming victory that would embarrass Mugabe.

"We know we have won this election by 50.3 percent. If ZEC calls for a runoff we will take part, but I can tell you the old man will be humiliated," he said. Biti said he was confident that people who did not vote in the March 29 election will come to cast their votes because "they have seen that it is possible to vote Mugabe out of power."

About 2.3 million people voted in Saturday's election, out of 5.9 million registered voters.

A journalist who could not be named for security reasons contributed from Harare.

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