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By Lindie Whiz

ZIMBABWE’S opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai admitted Tuesday that with the partial parliamentary election results showing a dead heat with the ruling Zanu PF, seats won by a rival MDC faction and independent Tsholotsho MP Jonathan Moyo could play a major role in handing them a parliamentary majority.

MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe told reporters in Bulawayo that their data collected at about 80 percent of the 206 contested seats showed they had secured 98 seats, Zanu PF 72 with the rival Mutambara-led MDC faction and Moyo holding 14 seats.

She said they had no data from the other 20 percent of constituencies – which might well be won by Zanu PF.

Flanked by senior MDC officials Eddie Cross and Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, Khupe spoke of “the 14 seats held by our colleagues” – a clear pointer that both Zanu PF and her MDC party are considering the possibility none will have a sweeping majority, let alone the desired two thirds which would enable them to change the constitution.

Khupe said in all but 27 constituencies tallied, the MDC had calculated that Tsvangirai would secure 56 percent of the vote in the presidential race, with Mugabe on 37 percent and former finance minister Simba Makoni a distant third with 10 percent.

"We are closely monitoring to see if ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] is reporting exactly what we have, and figures are correct," Khuphe told a press conference.

She said they were concerned by Zanu PF's big winning margins in Mashonaland constituencies, whereas the MDC wins in its urban strongholds appeared slim – something that can become a factor in the presidential ballot.

"We need to verify the Mashonaland votes where for instance Zanu PF is getting 14 000 and we are getting 1 000. But it is also important to point out that in most instances where we have lost a parliamentary seat; we have won the presidential vote. We are the outright winners," Khuphe said.

Cross said there were "serious attempts" by Zanu PF to rig the presidential poll, "but the plan ran into number of problems", among them “the ZEC's unwillingness to co-operate”.

“They are reporting the results truthfully,” Cross said.

He said the other "obstacle" was diplomatic pressure from foreign countries. Cross claimed that security chiefs had also informed Mugabe that they would not back him if he declared himself winner and there were public uprisings.

Cross claimed a “compromise” -- between Mugabe and security forces -- had been reached to reduce Tsvangirai’s vote to under 50 percent, in the process triggering a second round of voting between him and Mugabe to take place within three weeks.

Cross alleged that Zanu PF had "carefully selected constituencies where they have absolute control and have been successful in ballot stuffing there”.

He added: “They are preparing themselves for defeat without disgrace.”

The ZEC and Zimbabwe government have both cautioned the MDC against making unofficial projections on voting patterns, fearing that may trigger violence if the outcome is different.

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