Zimbabwe Opposistion Declares Victory

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- The main opposition party claimed outright victory Wednesday for its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, saying he had won 50.3 percent of the vote compared to 43.8 percent for President Robert Mugabe.

The ruling ZANU-PF party rejected the opposition's claims, saying that it would await the full results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which has not yet published the outcome of Saturday's presidential poll.

The state Herald newspaper on Wednesday predicted a runoff in the first official admission that Zimbabwe's autocratic leader of 28 years has failed to win re-election, but Movement for Democratic Change general secretary Tendai Biti said there was no need.

"We maintain that we have won the presidential election outright without the need for a run-off," Biti told a news conference.

Deputy Information Minister, Bright Matonga, said the opposition party was being "irresponsible" and "mischevious."

"They have got to be very careful with their activities," Matongo told the British Broadcasting Corp. "They think they can provoke ZANU-PF, and the police and the army."

The government had previously warned that premature announcement of election results by the Movement for Democratic Change would be tantamount to a coup attempt.

In campaigning, 84-year-old Mugabe had likened the elections to a boxing match, with his party winning in a knockout. Mugabe has been silent since the vote.

Speculation was rife that Mugabe loyalists were trying to buy time to rig results, even as people close to the electoral commission and the opposition reported secret negotiations to allow Mugabe to exit gracefully.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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