HARARE, Zimbabwe The main opposition leader insisted Tuesday he has won Zimbabwe's presidential election outright and denied persistent reports he was negotiating to ease out President Robert Mugabe, who has led the country from liberation to ruin.
In his first public comments since Saturday's election, Morgan Tsvangirai said he was waiting for an official announcement of the results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission before he would enter any talks with Mugabe.
A businessman close to the state electoral commission and a lawyer close to the opposition said earlier the two men's aides were negotiating a graceful exit for Mugabe, the country's leader of 28 years. Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Several diplomats said they had heard similar reports of secret negotiations but could not confirm talks were under way.
"There are no discussions," Tsvangirai said. "Let's wait for ZEC to complete its work, then we can discuss the circumstances that will affect the people."<
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga also denied it, telling the British Broadcasting Corp. "There are no negotiations whatsoever, because we are waiting for the presidential results, so why do we need to hold any secret talks?"
Tensions rose as people stayed away from work to await results. A senior police officer, Wayne Bvudzijena, went on state radio to say: "Our forces are more than ready to deal with perpetrators of violence."
Paramilitary police have stepped up patrols in Harare and Bulawayo, the second-largest city, and several roadblocks have been set up at strategic entries to the capital. The opposition has most of its support in urban centers.
Tsvangirai said he had won more than the 50 percent simple majority needed for victory. Mugabe has made no statement about the election.
The businessman said Mugabe has been told he is far behind Tsvangirai in preliminary results and that he might have to face a runoff. He said the prospect was too humiliating for the 84-year-old Mugabe, and that was why the president was considering ceding power in this Montana-sized country in southern Africa.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a coalition of 38 Zimbabwe civil society organizations, said its random representative sample of polling stations showed Tsvangirai won just over 49 percent of the vote and Mugabe 42 percent. Simba Makoni, a former Mugabe loyalist, trailed at about 8 percent.
In Washington, Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council, said "it's clear the people of Zimbabwe have voted for change. It's time for the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission to confirm the results we have all seen from the local polling stations and respected NGOs."
At his news conference, Tsvangirai spoke as if he already had been declared president:
"For years we have trod a journey of hunger, pain, torture and brutality," he said. "Today we face a new challenge of governing and rehabilitating our beloved country, the challenge of giving birth to a new Zimbabwe founded on restoration not retribution, on love not war."