Suspicions High Over Zimbabwe Vote Delay

Zimbabweans continued to wait Tuesday for the official results of its presidential election as concerns rose worldwide over the delay.

Based on exit poll results, unpopular President Robert Mugabe is projected to lose to opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Yet uneasiness remains high with many believing that Mugabe's government is trying to change the results in his favor with the extra time.

"The people of Zimbabwe will not allow such a thing to happen," said Thoko Khupe, vice president of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Party, according to CNN. "They are not going to accept that. They now know that they won this election."

Mugabe has ruled the southern African country since its independence from Britain in 1980. In the beginning, he was a popular national hero for his fight for independence. But then his popularity plummeted along with the country's economy, which currently includes an unemployment rate of about 80 percent and inflation at more than 100,000 percent.

His violent response to critics of his government and widespread accusations of corruption further hurt his image both inside and outside Zimbabwe. Many believe that Mugabe rigged the results of the 2002 election in which he also faced Tsvangirai.

Although no official word has been heard about the presidential election, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission did release on Monday updated results for the parliamentary election.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) party won 53 seats out of 109, while the MDC won 51 seats. A party that split from the MDC holds five seats.

Ahead of the elections, churches across Zimbabwe had mobilized Christians to cast their votes. Approximately 75 percent of the country's population is Christian.

Participating churches sought to encourage Christian voters to head to the polls despite reported violent intimidation tactics meant to keep voters at home or to pressure them to support a candidate.

The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, which organized the Christian voters campaign, also monitored some 900 ballot locations across Zimbabwe's 10 provinces.

Elections in 2002 and 2005 won by Mugabe's ruling party were marred by administrative chaos and plagued by allegations of vote rigging, irregularities in voters' lists and charges of violence and political intimidation.

Following this past weekend's voting, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged a quick report on results, saying "all eyes will be on Zimbabwe," according to CNN.

"I think there are two things that are important: The results come forward soon and they are not delayed. Secondly, that the election seems to be fair and representative."

The United States on Monday also urged Zimbabwe to quickly count presidential and parliamentary votes, according to The Associated Press.

"What's important is that we don't see any undue delay in this process," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey to reporters. "The opportunities for mischief increase the longer the delay is between the elections and the announcement of the vote."

Casey said the U.S. was concerned ahead of the election over extra ballots printed and police at polling stations that would make the vote-counting process "problematic."

After its 2002 election, Zimbabwe faced international sanction, including travel restrictions by the United States on Zimbabwean officials.

"The world can't sit by this time and allow Mugabe to steal another election," said Kate Hoey, a British Parliament Member and frequent visitor to Zimbabwe. "It just isn't going to happen. I really can't see this time, because the majority is going to be so much bigger and the people of Zimbabwe are peaceful people and really want to see this change happen. We must support them."

The electoral commission has not given word on when it will announce the presidential results.