Image: Zimbabwe riot police.
Philimon Bulawayo  /  Reuters
Riot police were out in force in Zimbabwe's capital of Harare on Wednesday as reports suggested President Robert Mugabe had failed to win a majority for the first time in nearly three decades.
msnbc.com news services
updated 4/3/2008 11:18:23 AM ET 2008-04-03T15:18:23

President Robert Mugabe has admitted to his family and advisers that he has lost the most important election of his 28-year rule, South African financial daily Business Day reported on Thursday.

Mugabe lost control of parliament for the first time since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said he had also been defeated in a presidential election last Saturday and should concede defeat.

Mugabe is due to chair a meeting of his ruling party politburo on Friday to discuss Zimbabwe's elections.

Senior ZANU-PF official Didymus Mutasa declined to comment on whether the party was planning for a Mugabe run-off against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

"All I can confirm is there is a politburo meeting. That's enough, that's all I can say at the moment," said Mutasa, the party secretary for administration.

Business Day said Mugabe had privately conceded defeat and was deciding if he should contest a run-off vote needed because Tsvangirai failed to secure a clear majority.

"Mugabe has conceded to his closest advisers, the army, police and intelligence chiefs. He has also told his family and personal advisers that he has lost the election," Business Day quoted an unidentified source as saying.

The newspaper said hardliners in Mugabe's government wanted him to see the contest through to the bitter end, but that personal advisers and his family want Mugabe to quit.

Mugabe, known for his fierce and defiant rhetoric, has not been seen in public since the vote.

Earlier on Thursday, Mugabe's deputy information Minister, Bright Matonga, insisted the 84-year-old leader was ready for a run-off.

"President Mugabe is going to fight. He is not going anywhere. He has not lost," Matonga told the British Broadcasting Corp. "We are going to go hard and fight and get the majority required."

In final results of the election for parliament's lower house, the MDC won 99 seats, while Mugabe's ZANU-PF won 97 seats and a breakaway MDC faction won 10. One independent candidate won a seat.

Results for parliament's upper house, the senate, will be issued next.

No official results have emerged in the presidential vote.

Widely blamed for economic collapse of his once prosperous nation, Mugabe has faced growing discontent with the world's highest inflation rate of more than 100,000 percent, a virtually worthless currency and severe food and fuel shortages.

The opposition and international observers said Mugabe rigged the last presidential election in 2002. But some analysts say discontent over daily hardships is too great for him to fix the result this time without risking major unrest.

The mainstream MDC faction said its Tsvangirai had won 50.3 percent of the presidential vote and Mugabe 43.8 percent according to its own tallies.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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