Zimbabwe MDC Claims Victory; Still No Official Results

A fifth day rolled by Thursday with no official results on Zimbabwe's presidential election, although the frustrated opposition party declared itself the victor the day before.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed victory Wednesday over President Robert Mugabe, saying its own calculations showed its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had surpassed the 50 percent mark needed for a clear victory.

MDC's announcement came without the backing of the official electoral commission, but was based on results posted outside polling stations, according to CNN.

Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary-general, told a press conference Wednesday that Tsvangirai had won 50.2 percent of votes compared to 43.8 percent by Mugabe.

"Put simply he (Tsvangirai) has won this election… Morgan Richard Tsvangirai is the next president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, without a run-off," Biti said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Biti's declaration came shortly after Zimbabwe's state newspaper, The Herald, predicted a runoff in last weekend's presidential vote — the first official admission that the country's autocratic leader of 28 years has failed to win re-election.

It also came shortly before the electoral commission announced that Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had lost its majority in parliament – the first time since its leader gained power in 1980. The two MDC factions combined secured 105 seats compared to ZANU-PF's 93, according results released on Wednesday. The parliamentary results are not final yet, and the electoral commission said it will release the complete results on Thursday.

The commission also said it would soon release results from the upper house, the Senate.

Incumbent President 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 over 80 percent and inflation at more than 100,000 percent.

Zimbabwe, once admired for offering citizens some of the best education and health care in Africa, now considers schooling a luxury and has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world – 39.5 years old.

It was also once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa, but now even basic food supplies such as bread are hard to come by.

"The Church has been rallying [in Zimbabwe]," reported a member of the Christian persecution watchdog Voice of the Martyrs whose family still lives in Zimbabwe.

"The Church has been praying and standing and believing God for change. I think it's important for the rest of the world to pray along with Zimbabweans," added the young woman, identified only as "Mary Sue" for security purposes.

"They haven't lost their faith, even though they've had trouble with the economy. They haven't had food to eat or clothes to put on their back. They have believed that through everything, God is going to take them through. I believe this is a beginning," she said.

For the recent election, some 900 churches in Zimbabwe mobilized Christians – who make up 75 percent of the nation – to turn out to vote. Christian groups, such as the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, also helped monitor some 900 ballot location across Zimbabwe's 10 provinces in response to reported violent intimidation tactics meant to keep voters from the polls or pressuring them to support a particular candidate.

"Churches are standing up for them and standing with them," stated Useni Sibanda, national coordinator of the ZCA, according to U.K.-based Tearfund.