A leadership meeting of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party will decide on Friday to contest a runoff election against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, a senior official said.
Referring to a meeting of the ZANU-PF politburo, a senior party member told Reuters: "I have no doubt the resolution will be in favour of a run-off, I have no doubt about that.
"We cannot just hand it to Morgan (Tsvangirai) on a silver platter. We will fight for it and we will win."
The politburo is meeting to decide Mugabe's next move after ZANU-PF lost control of parliament for the first time in the veteran leader's 28-year rule.
Six days after last Saturday's elections, no results have been released for the presidential poll. ZANU-PF and independent projections indicate that although Tsvangirai has won, he failed to get the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff.
The opposition says its tallies show Tsvangirai won and should be declared president immediately, ending Mugabe's uninterrupted rule since independence from Britain in 1980.
Senate results, which must precede the presidential outcome, only began trickling out on Thursday night, fuelling suspicions that Mugabe is trying to buy time to stave off defeat.
A runoff would be held on April 19, three weeks after the elections, but some MDC sources allege Mugabe plans to extend that to 90 days to give him time to regroup.
They believe he would try to ensure victory in the second vote by using militias and powerful security forces to cow MDC supporters.
"I am not aware of such a plan (to delay runoff) but no matter how much they may want to buy time or beat up people or employ other dirty tricks, the people of Zimbabwe have already made a choice by voting for a candidate (Tsvangirai) that will take the country forward," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
NO LEGAL LIMIT TO DELAY
Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, of rights group National Constitutional Assembly, denied reports that the law requires the electoral commission to issue presidential election results by today.
"There is no such law. It is being said by non-lawyers, non-experts. There is no law that says you have to announce the presidential result, or any results, within a certain period. There is no limit," he said.
"The bottom line is that ZANU-PF does not want to, and will not hand power to the MDC. It's extremely worrying that ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) is delaying the announcement of the results."
Mugabe faces deep discontent as Zimbabwe suffers the world's highest inflation rate of more than 100,000 percent, a virtually worthless currency and severe food and fuel shortages.
Zimbabweans are waiting anxiously to hear whether the elections will bring a way out of their economic misery.
"I'm happy that the MDC has won the parliamentary elections, we needed the change and I think things will start getting better now but the presidency is the most important one and we need official results," said Kelvin Matongo, an information technology technician.
All the signs are that Mugabe, a liberation war leader still respected in Africa, is in the worst trouble of his rule after facing an unprecedented challenge in the elections because of the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy.
The United States voiced concern about possible manipulation of the vote count.
"Any fair-minded observer has to have serious concerns about the fact that these results have not been released yet," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.
Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged that the election results be declared "faithfully and accurately."
"Any attempt to tamper with these results would be rejected by the people of Zimbabwe as well as by the international community," he said in a statement.