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Mugabe said ready for election run-off


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ZIMBABWE'S ruling party geared up for a final battle to save Robert Mugabe's 28-year presidency, saying on Thursday it was ready for an election run-off with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

While state media said a run-off was now the most likely outcome after no clear winner emerged from Saturday's election, a government spokesperson said Mugabe's party was ready for a new battle in the second round.

Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has already declared its leader passed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off and took control of parliament in the early hours of the morning.

While diplomatic sources say intense negotiations are under way to persuade Mugabe to exit gracefully after 28 years in power, Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga indicated Mugabe was in no mood to step aside.

"Zanu PF is ready for a run-off, we are ready for a resulting victory," said Matonga.

He said the party had "let the president down" in the first round and had not diverted enough energy into its campaign.

"In terms of strategy, we only applied 25 percent of our energy into this campaign... That (the run-off) is when we are going to unleash the other 75 percent that we did not apply in the first case."

Mugabe was seen on state television for the first time after voting ended last Saturday meeting African election observers. Matonga denied that he was in any mood for surrender.

"He is anxiously awaiting the results as well."

The electoral commission wrapped up final results of the parliamentary contest in the early hours of Thursday, giving the two MDC factions 109 seats against 97 for Zanu PF. One seat went to an independent.

The situation is slightly complicated by a split in the MDC ranks, with 10 of the newly-elected lawmakers part of a rebel faction.

But while the parliamentary election has now been decided, there has still been no news on the outcome of the simultaneous presidential contest.

Representatives of the candidates were due to meet on Thursday with electoral commission officials to witness the verification of the results, according to commission sources.

However results were expected to be announced at the very latest by the end of Friday, the sources said.

The commission is first due to announce the outcome of the contest for the largely toothless upper house of parliament, the senate.

Frustrated with the silence from the commission, the MDC pre-emptively released its own results on Wednesday indicating that Tsvangirai had won the presidency outright with 50.2 percent of votes against 43.8 percent for Mugabe.

However a report in Thursday's state-run Herald newspaper predicted that Tsvangirai would "fall far short" of the total needed for an outright victory and that "a run-off appears the most likely outcome".

With 84-year-old Mugabe's grip on power starting to loosen, diplomatic sources said there was a concerted effort to persuade him to stand down with dignity after his long rule since independence in 1980.

Edgar Tekere, a one-time cabinet minister who is now one of the president's arch critics, feared that Mugabe would still try and cling to power.

"They (Zanu PF) have lost control, and so has Mugabe, if he in not trying to resort to to his habitual tricks of stealing the vote," Tekere told AFP.

"I hope that he does not try that as that will be absolutely foolish and plunge us into chaos."

The economy of Zimbabwe has been in meltdown since the start of the decade, with inflation now standing at over 100 000 percent and unemployment at beyond 80 percent. Even basic foodstuffs such as bread are now in scarce supply. - AFP
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