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Article by: Reuters
Published: 04 Apr 2008
|All eyes on Mugabe leadership meeting|
|Zimbabweans hoping elections will bring relief from an economic catastrophe anxiously awaited a leadership meeting expected to discuss the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's 28-year rule.
Ruling ZANU-PF party sources said the president would chair a party leadership meeting called for Friday.
Senior ZANU-PF official Didymus Mutasa declined to comment on whether the party was planning for a runoff against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, although another official said earlier it was ready for a vote and would win it.
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.
Delayed results of the election to the senate -- which must precede presidential results -- trickled in on Thursday night.
First results issued by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) showed Tsvangirai's MDC and Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF each winning five seats out of 60 contested for the senate, parliament's upper house.
Zimbabweans are most interested in word on Mugabe's intentions since he lost control of parliament's lower house for the first time. They have been waiting since Saturday's election to hear whether he was also defeated in the presidential vote.
"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.
MUGABE'S NEXT MOVE?
"ZEC is being very unfair. If it is our right to vote then it is also our right to know the results as soon as possible after voting. The problem is they (ZEC) are not explaining why they are delaying. All they are saying is 'be patient'."
The MDC, and many Zimbabweans, believe the unprecedented delay in issuing results masks attempts by Mugabe's entourage to find a way out of the crisis.
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.
Analysts said Mugabe was believed to have convened the leadership to discuss their next move after ZANU-PF's first defeat in a parliamentary election and to gauge how much support there was for him running in a second round presidential poll.
"Everyone knows that the presidency is the main post and that's why those results are so important," said Tafara Butayi an account executive with a cellular service provider.
"Until we know those I think people will continue to be sceptical."
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.
ZANU-PF projections show Mugabe failing to win a majority for the first time since he took power after independence from Britain in 1980. But they also show Tsvangirai falling short of the required absolute majority to avoid a second round.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said the party was ready for a second round, in the strongest indication yet that Mugabe intends to stand, despite calls by the opposition to concede defeat and avoid embarrassment.
The MDC says Tsvangirai won an absolute majority, based on its own tallies, and no re-run is necessary.
In his first public appearance since the March 29 election, Mugabe met the head of an African Union election observer team at his residence in Harare, state television reported.
Asked about his meeting with Mugabe, Sierra Leone's former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah told ZTV: "He looked very relaxed, and is of the view that the problems of the country will be resolved amicably, and he is very relaxed about it."