Zimbabwe Opposition Claims Early Lead

HARARE, Zimbabwe-- Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Sunday claimed an early lead in elections, including in a rural stronghold of President Robert Mugabe, in an apparent effort to thwart any attempt to rig the vote count.

The head of the Pan-African Parliament observer mission said he was sure most results were known and warned against a delay of an official announcement of the outcome.

The Movement for Democratic Change said party leader Morgan Tsvangirai was leading the presidential race with 67 percent of votes, based on returns from 35 percent of polling stations nationwide. With three-quarters of Zimbabwe's population in rural areas where Mugabe garners most of his support, it was impossible to determine what those figures meant to the race.

Party secretary-general Tendai Biti told a news conference that they based their claim on results from Saturday's balloting posted on the doors of polling stations overnight, which party election agents sent by text messages.

"The people's victory is on course," Biti said Saturday night. "We have absolutely no doubt that we are winning this election."

Police had tried to persuade the opposition leaders not to announce results, arguing it was illegal for anyone other than the Electoral Commission to do so. But the opposition party's lawyers said the information already was public.