HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party on Thursday claimed a landslide victory in Zimbabwe's elections, but its rival, Prime Minster Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said there had been "monumental fraud."
Wednesday's voting had been peaceful across the southern African nation, but the early claims from the competing parties heralded an acrimonious dispute over the outcome and raised fears of a repeat of violence that marred a 2008 election.
Releasing unofficial results early in Zimbabwe is illegal, and police had said on Wednesday they would arrest anybody who made premature claims about the result. Election authorities were due to announce results within five days from Wednesday.
But a senior source in Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, who asked not to be named, said the outcome was already clear.
"We've taken this election. We've buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win," the source told Reuters by phone on Thursday.
Riot police took up positions outside the party's headquarters in central Harare and other key locations in the capital. MDC offices appeared to be almost deserted.
An independent election monitor in Zimbabwe, who also could not be named for fear of arrest, said that early results were looking like a "disaster" for Tsvangirai, who is making his third bid to unseat the 89-year-old Mugabe.
Responding to the ZANU-PF claim, a high-ranking source in Tsvangirai's MDC party described the election as "a monumental fraud".