The government of Zimbabwe has yet to release most of the results from its weekend election, prompting most people to believe that Robert Mugabe is cooking the numbers. The small number of official results show one of Mugabe’s allies losing his parliamentary seat, but otherwise the vote totals released show Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party keeping pace with the opposition MDC. If that continues, Mugabe may face an uprising from Zimbabweans who clearly turned out in force to turn Mugabe out just short of force:

Zimbabwe’s justice minister lost his seat on Monday and first election results showed the opposition level with President Robert Mugabe’s party, but counting delays fuelled opposition suspicions of rigging.

Results of the parliamentary election began trickling out on Monday, 36 hours after polls closed, but no official details were available on the presidential vote, in which Mugabe faces his most formidable political challenge of 28 years in power.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said that unofficial tallies showed its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had 60 percent of the presidential vote, twice the total for Mugabe, with more than half the results counted.

Mugabe, 84, faces unprecedented pressure because of Zimbabwe’s economic collapse and a two-pronged attack by veteran rival Tsvangirai and ZANU-PF defector Simba Makoni.

Latest official results showed the opposition MDC and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF running neck-and-neck, with 12 seats each from a total parliament of 210 constituencies.

None of this is unexpected. Mugabe hung onto power after the last election by rigging the numbers in his favor. In 2005, he faced the same opponent, and won a bare majority in Parliament even with the manipulations he used then. Election observers noted the presence of a large number of “ghost voters” on the rolls in that election.

Mugabe promised constitutional changes and an improvement in Zimbabwe’s economy in that election, and delivered an economic collapse through statist diktats. He needs more than ghost voters in this election; he’ll need every gun he can find to keep Zimbabwe from rising up against him if he tries cooking this election. Zimbabwe can’t survive another three years under his direction. They probably can’t survive another three months without a serious change in direction.

If Zimbabweans cannot change that direction at the ballot box, expect them to look for other options. Desperation will keep them from accepting a rigged election as quietly as they did in 2005.