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Mugabe Cabinet ministers loses seat, according to slow release of official results

Mugabe Cabinet ministers loses seat, according to slow release of official results

One of Robert Mugabe's Cabinet ministers lost his seat in a district seen as a ruling party stronghold, one of the few races for which Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission released results Monday.
The slow release of official tallies _ so far for just 24 seats, with results split evenly between the ruling party and the opposition _ has heightened fears of rigging. Britain and the EU called for faster reporting Monday. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change began announcing its own tally a day earlier and claimed Monday to be leading by a wide margin in the presidential and parliamentary balloting; local elections also were held Saturday.
Opposition party secretary-general Tendai Biti told reporters that the party's sources at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said rigging was under way aimed at giving Mugabe a 52 percent victory in the presidential race, and his party 111 of the 210 House of Assembly seats. A presidential candidate needs at least 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff.
"This country stands on a precipice," Biti said. "We still express our great misgivings about ZEC's failure to announce the results .... It only goes to raise tension among the people that is fertilizing an atmosphere of suspicion.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa's loss fits a pattern independent monitors had seen earlier. The monitors, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publish results, said six Cabinet ministers _ among them some leading members of Mugabe's inner circle _ had lost their parliament seats. They include Vice President Joyce Mujuru; Didymus Mutasa, minister of state for security and land, and Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
In addition, observers from the South African Democratic Alliance opposition party have said accounts from observers and other sources indicated the opposition had won a majority in most areas. But Tsvangirai narrowly lost disputed 2002 elections, and questions remained as to whether Mugabe, who has been accused of rigging past elections, would accept defeat this time.
It also was unclear how powerful backers who have benefited from Mugabe's rule would react. While younger army officers are reported to be losing patience with Mugabe, security chiefs said before the election they would not accept an opposition victory. A show of force by riot police and other security forces dampened celebrations Sunday in the capital's densely populated suburb where support for the opposition is strong.
Tsvangirai's party officials said at a news conference Monday its results, based on counts posted at polling stations in 128 of the country's 210 parliamentary districts, showed it was leading presidential elections with 60 percent of the votes compared to 30 percent for Mugabe. The rest of the presidential votes went to former ruling party loyalist and Finance Minister Simba Makoni, whose campaign as independent brought splits within the ruling party over Mugabe's rule into the open.
The Movement for Democratic Change also said the opposition won 96 seats in the House of Assembly.
In an early morning nationwide broadcast on radio and television, the deputy chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana, declared results of six seats in the 210-seat House of Assembly _ three for Mugabe's ruling party, three for the opposition.
Then he went off the air, saying, "We'll be back with you when we have more results."
Four hours later, the commission announced results for another 18 assembly seats _ nine each for the ruling and opposition parties. Those results Chinamasa's loss. Parliament includes 210 House of Assembly seats and 60 Senate seats.
Election observers have said some initial results were known as early as 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) Saturday, some four hours after polls closed. In previous elections, partial results have been announced within hours of voting ending.
"Clearly the delay is fueling speculation that something might be going on," said Noel Kututwa, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network, which includes 38 civic, church and other groups.
The elections have presented Mugabe, 84, with the toughest challenge ever to his 28-year rule. The voting was generally peaceful after a campaign that focuses on the destroyed economy, with inflation soaring beyond 100,500 percent.
If Tsvangirai were to claim victory before the official results are announced, it would be "called a coup d'etat and we all know how coups are handled," chief presidential spokesman George Charamba was quoted as saying in the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper.
Sources within the ruling party said Mugabe was consulting with his security chiefs Sunday night amid fears of how they might react to any news of his defeat. The chiefs all have said they would serve only Mugabe.
Western diplomats report that many younger army officers showed open defiance of orders to vote for Mugabe. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity.
Britain, long a sharp critic of Mugabe, said it hoped the final election results would be quickly confirmed. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman Michael Ellam, speaking to reporters in London Monday, added contingency plans were in place to offer more aid to Zimbabwe if "the democratic wish of the people is respected."
The European Union, barred along with other Westerners from sending election observers, also urged Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission to speed up its release of official results.
"We consider that it would be opportune that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should publish the final results as soon as possible to demonstrate it's independence and to avoid unnecessary speculation," EU spokesman John Clancy told reporters in Belgium Monday.
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On the Net:
http://www.zimbabweelectoralcommission.org
http://www.zesn.org.zw