Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party claimed on Friday it was headed for victory in crunch elections branded a "sham" by his rivals as international observers prepared to hand down their verdict.
A leading opposition figure called for "passive resistance" over the outcome of Wednesday's presidential and parliamentary elections, which the opposition and local monitors charge was riddled with flaws.
Mugabe's ZANU-PF forecast a landslide victory for the 89-year-old veteran leader over his long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is bidding to end his three-decade grip on power.
"It's the prediction that the president might likely get 70 to 75 per cent," party spokesman Rugare Gumbo said.
Early official results for the national assembly showed that ZANU-PF had so far won 52 of 62 seats announced out of a total of 210 up for grabs.
But Tsvangirai, trying for the third time to unseat his firebrand rival, on yesterday slapped down the victory claims.
"It's a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people," he said, pointing to a litany of alleged irregularities.
"In our view this election is null and void," he said. "This election has been a huge farce."
Foreign diplomats and independent local election observers also expressed deep misgivings about the poll, the first since violent, flawed elections in 2008 which saw Mugabe and Tsvangirai forced into an uneasy power-sharing deal.
"Up to a million voters were disenfranchised," said Solomon Zwana, chairman of Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has 7,000 observers. "The election is seriously compromised."
Tsvangirai, 61, stopped short of claiming victory himself, a move that could have enflamed tensions in the sanctions-hit country where political violence is common.
But top MDC official Roy Bennett called for a campaign of "passive resistance".
"I'm talking about people completely shutting the country down – don't pay any bills, don't attend work, just bring the country to a standstill."