Zimbabwe awaits presidential election results

Other News Materials 29 April 2008 03:55 (UTC +04:00)

(reuters) - Verification of Zimbabwe's disputed presidential election results is due to start on Tuesday, a month after the vote, now that a partial recount has ended, an election official said.

Zimbabweans may learn by the end of the week whether Robert Mugabe will remain president after nearly three decades in power or lose to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The wait for the March 29 election result has led to a tense standoff that has raised fears of bloodshed and drawn opposition accusations that Mugabe is trying to rig the outcome.

A win for Mugabe, whose ruling ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament in the election, would deepen the economic collapse of the once prosperous country, political analysts say.

But Western powers are likely to pour in aid and investment if victory goes to Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the analysts say.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said recounting in five remaining constituencies had been completed.

"I'm getting the information that they are now collating the results, which will be available tomorrow," spokesman Utoile Silaigwana told Reuters on Monday.

The outcome still needed to be verified by the candidates and that could take up to a week because they were likely to dispute the results, Silaigwana said.

Zimbabweans had hoped the election would ease an economic crisis. Instead severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages are worsening and there are no signs an inflation rate of 165,000 percent -- the world's highest -- will ease.

Tsvangirai, who says he won an outright majority in the first round of voting and has rejected any run-off, urged the 84-year-old Mugabe to step down.

"Old man, go and have an honourable exit," Tsvangirai, 56, told a news conference in neighbouring South Africa.

Asked if he would take part in a run-off, Tsvangirai said: "The question of a run-off does not arise. The people have spoken."

ZANU-PF lost control of parliament for the first time since Mugabe took office in 1980, weakening the hold of the former guerrilla leader who critics say has depended on heavy security crackdowns and an elaborate patronage system.

The party accuses MDC members of carrying out attacks and working with Western powers to bring down Mugabe, once seen as a leader who could transform the former British colony into a democratic and economic success story.