State paper calls Mugabe party rout in parliament a "photo finish"

Other News Materials 3 April 2008 13:10 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The opposition's rout of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party in last weekend's parliamentary election was no rout, but a "photo finish", Zimbabwe's state- controlled Herald newspaper proclaimed Thursday.

"Zanu-PF, MDC-T in photo finish," the paper's front-page headline read a day after the Movement for Democratic Change swept the vote for the 210-seat House of Assembly (lower house of parliament) with 109 seats against 97 for Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

The Herald played up the split of the MDC vote, between the main faction led by longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (99 votes) and a smaller breakaway faction, led by academic Arthur Mutambara (10 votes).

"Neither major party (meaning Zanu-PF or Tsvangirai's MDC faction) has an absolute majority," the Herald, which is seen as a state mouthpiece, said.

By diminishing the ruling party's defeat the Herald appeared to be preparing Zimbabweans for the possibility of a runoff vote between Mugabe and Tsvangirai for president.

The MDC claims Tsvangirai won last Saturday's presidential election outright and has called on Mugabe to concede defeat.

Five days later no official results have been released but analysts say the outcome of the Assembly vote points to a stinging defeat for Mugabe.