(dpa) - The final results from one of four votes in Zimbabwe's weekend elections were eagerly awaited Wednesday amid diplomatic pressure on longtime President Robert Mugabe to concede defeat.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was due to complete its tortuous drip-feed of results from voting for the 210-member House of Assembly, or lower house of parliament, later Wednesday.
Official results from a count of 176 seats give Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party 86 seats against 85 for the faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai and five for a smaller, breakaway faction.
No official results have been released as yet from the presidential vote, but if the neck-and-neck trend in the assembly vote is borne out in the final tally, it could point to a runoff vote between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai, whose party claims to have polled 60 per cent in Saturday's polls, said he had "no doubt" he had more than 50 per cent necessary to avoid a runoff vote called for within three weeks in such circumstances.
The MDC was due to release the results of its own parallel vote count later Wednesday.
Mugabe at the weekend also ruled out a runoff vote as unnecessary, saying Zimbabwean elections deliver a knockout blow not a boxing match.
The administration of US President George W Bush Wednesday put pressure on Mugabe to step aside, saying it was "clear the people of Zimbabwe have voted for change," and calling on the electoral commission to "confirm" preliminary partial results showing Tsvangirai poised for victory.
An estimate produced by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, shows Tsvangirai taking 49.2 per cent of the vote against 41.8 per cent for Mugabe and 8.2 per cent for a third candidate, former finance minister Simba Makoni, who ran as an independent.
The estimate was based on a count of results from 435 of around 9,000 polling stations and contains a margin of error of 2.4 per cent.
Amid reports that the ruling party and opposition were in talks on the election outcome, South Africa's Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he would support any outcome that would avoid the possibility of bloodshed.
"The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough," he said.
The Zimbabwean government and Tsvangirai moved quickly Tuesday to quell rumours that a deal had been struck on Mugabe's exit in the inter-party talks, which sources said included the military.
Saturday's vote, which got a qualified thumbs-up from African observers despite widespread irregularities, including the presence of police in polling stations, was seen mainly as a vote on the economic chaos wrought by Mugabe's populist policies, which have resulted in 100,000-per-cent inflation and widespread food, fuel and drug shortages.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.