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Mar 31, 2008 at 09:42am IST

Zimbabwe's hotly-contested polls peaceful

New Delhi: A team of election observers in Zimbabwe has declared the country's hotly-contested Presidential polls 'peaceful'.

The South African observer mission said that the election could be considered 'credible' overall, despite some concerns.

On Sunday, Zimbabwe's opposition claimed victory, but President Robert Mugabe's government warned that it would treat any premature claims as an attempted coup.

PEACE PREVAILS: The South African observers said the election could be considered 'credible'.

Secretary General of MDC, the main Opposition party, Tendai Biti, told diplomats and observers overnight that early results showed it was victorious. ''We have won this election,'' he was quoted by news agencies as saying.

Voter turnout for the polls was low but voting was largely peaceful. Preliminary results are expected today.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, faced his most formidable challenge in the election against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and ruling ZANU-PF party defector Simba Makoni, who campaigned on the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.

Although the odds seem stacked against Mugabe, 84, analysts believe he will be declared the winner and the opposition accused him of widespread vote-rigging.

Observers from the Pan-African parliament told the electoral commission they had found more than 8,000 non-existent voters registered on empty land in a Harare constituency.

The United States said it was worried by the conduct of the election and the absence of most international observers.

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