Harare - Zimbabwe police vowed to crack down on any attempts
to leak early results from Wednesday's vote, complicating plans by some civic
groups to pre-empt official announcements by the country's election commission.
The move means it could be hours before the first officially
collated results trickle in from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, although
political parties will have immediate access to individual results posted at
President Robert Mugabe is fighting to extend his 33-year
rule in the election pitting him against main rival Morgan Tsvangirai, prime
minister for the last four years under an enforced unity government brokered
after a contested 2008 vote was marred by violence.
Police thwarted plans to collate election results posted
outside polling stations by declaring it an offence to send results via text
messaging or the Internet, said Frances Lovemore, a senior official at the
Zimbabwe Election Support Network.
"At a lot of the polling stations, they've locked the
public out. They're clamping down now," she said.
The Mail and Guardian newspaper, published by a Zimbabwean
in neighbouring South Africa, earlier set up a website it said would compile
preliminary results based on electoral commission break-downs.
"Preliminary results are not meant to announce or
declare that any particular candidate or political party is the winner,"
it said on the site.
Police warned at a news conference that they would act against
"people who announce results of elections before the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission", news networks reported.
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba could not be
immediately reached for comment.
Zimbabweans are eager to hear the outcome of the vote, which
was peaceful on the whole - unlike recent previous polls - and which they hope
will unlock crucial Western donor aid needed to spur growth. Aid has been
suspended over policy differences with Mugabe.
No reliable opinion polls have been released, making it
difficult to gauge whether Tsvangirai will manage to defeat Mugabe.
The 89-year-old Mugabe, who denies rigging past votes to
hold onto the power, says he is confident of victory, but has pledged to
concede defeat should it happen.
Tsvangirai has also predicted an overwhelming win. Both
Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change, led by his
opponent, could reject results of the poll, which was dogged by logistical
hitches ahead of the election.
About 6.4 million people, or half the population, were
registered to vote. Results are expected within a five-day deadline intended to
prevent a repeat of problems seen in the last election in 2008, when big delays
triggered violent clashes.