Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe?s party claimed on Thursday that the veteran leader had won the hard-fought election over his long-time rival but local observers charged that the vote was seriously flawed.

?We have romped [to victory] in a very emphatic manner. We have defeated the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change],? a top member of Mugabe?s Zanu-PF party told AFP.

He said Mugabe had trounced three-time challenger Morgan Tsvangirai in Wednesday?s vote and that the Zanu-PF had retaken many parliamentary seats in urban areas, where support for the MDC was believed to be strong. 

There was no immediate confirmation from election authorities about the claim, and no official results have yet been issued from the presidential and parliamentary vote.

And local observers cited a slew of flaws that called into question the victory claim, after the MDC charged that Mugabe?s rivals had been engaged in vote-rigging.

?The election is seriously compromised,? said Solomon Zwana, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Election Support Network. ?Up to a million voters were disenfranchised.?

Regional observers from the African Union had said the process had been ?orderly and fair? while the United States said it was too early to make a full judgement.

Turnout was reported to be high nationwide after queues of Zimbabweans lined up for hours to vote in the first election since bloody polls in 2008 that led to the creation of an uneasy government alliance between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Final results

The 89-year-old Mugabe, Africa?s oldest leader, is seeking a seventh term but Tsvangirai has voiced hope the election will usher in a new era for the troubled southern African nation.

Final results had been expected within five days of the election and police warned on Wednesday that anyone trying to release unofficial figures ahead of time risked being arrested.

Mugabe himself had even threatened to arrest Tsvangirai if he tried to declare an early victory.

The African Union, which has been accused of whitewashing problems in the run-up to the vote, said initial reports indicated it was ?peaceful, orderly, free and fair?.

US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf also said early signs indicated a ?peaceful environment? ? but that it was too soon to say if the election had been fair.

?We?ve made clear to the government of Zimbabwe and the region that further reductions in our sanctions will only occur if these next elections are credible, transparent and reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people,? she said.

Despite the tensions over the rigging allegations and the fierce rhetoric of the campaign, there were no reports of widespread violence.

Many of the 6.4 million eligible voters started queueing before sunrise in the winter cold, hours before polls opened. The lines continued well into the evening, with many marking their ballots by candle light.

Mugabe said after he cast his ballot there was ?no pressure? being exerted on voters. (REUTERS) 

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