Each time a I come across a case like this, it's like looking at a mirror image. All these authoritarian systems think and act alike.
- NEW: Zimbabwean security forces seize four journalists, witness says
- NEW: "There's a definite crackdown," secretary-general for the opposition party says
- Government announces another delay in releasing election results
- Member of Robert Mugabe's party calls longtime leader "finished"
HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabwean government forces Thursday began cracking down on the main opposition party, raising fears of a political crisis, according to witnesses and an opposition spokesman.
The forces raided at least two hotels in the capital, including one that houses foreign journalists, a witness told CNN.
Four journalists unaccredited by the Zimbabwean government were taken away, he said.
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller confirmed that Barry Bearak, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent based in Johannesburg, South Africa, was taken into custody.
"We do not know where he is being held, or what, if any, charges have been made against him," Keller said in a written statement.
"We are making every effort to ascertain his status, to assure that he is safe and being well treated, and to secure his prompt release."
The identities of the other journalists seized in the raid were not immediately known.
Tendai Biti, secretary-general for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, told CNN that his party's offices -- located in another Harare hotel -- were also raided by Zimbabwean forces.
Some of the rooms were ransacked, The Associated Press reported.
"There's a definite crackdown," Biti said. No one was detained in that raid, he added.
The action targeted "certain people ... including myself," Biti told the AP.
"It is quite clear he has unleashed a war," he said, referring to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
The crackdown came hours after the government announced another delay in releasing the results of last weekend's election, raising fears that Mugabe is trying to come up with a plan to remain in power.
Mugabe likely will defend his post in a runoff, his party said Thursday, but diplomatic sources said they worry the government may delay the contest, opening the door for corruption.
The concerns surfaced as a member of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party declared the longtime leader "finished" and said any attempt by Mugabe to cling to his post would be "a suicide mission."
By law, a runoff must be held by April 19 -- within three weeks of Saturday's vote -- but diplomatic sources familiar with the situation said the government may postpone the runoff.
If ZANU-PF delays the runoff between Mugabe and the opposition's Morgan Tsvangirai, intimidation and fraud could ensue, the sources said.
The Zimbabwean government has denied CNN and other international news organizations permission to enter the country to report on the elections.
Before the election, the Movement for Democratic Change said the government had printed millions of excess ballots in a scheme to rig the vote in Mugabe's favor, an allegation the ruling party denied.
The lack of an official tally of the presidential vote has created confusion and speculation over the results.
Zimbabwean Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said the results appeared close enough to force a runoff because neither candidate had snared more than 50 percent of the vote. He was using the early results in the parliamentary elections as a barometer for the presidential contest, he said.
According to the state-run newspaper, The Herald, the elections for parliament's lower house came down to a "photo finish," with MDC taking 99 seats and ZANU-PF 97.
Eleven posts in the 210-seat body went to an independent and members of a smaller opposition party. Three seats will have to be decided in a later election because the opposition candidates have died, the paper reported.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Thursday it has postponed releasing results from elections for the Senate, parliament's upper house.
Matonga said of the lower house elections, "ZANU-PF is leading with a popular vote, although they have two seats less than MDC." Of the presidential election, he added, "ZANU-PF is ready for a rerun. There is no other option."
However, a ZANU-PF member, who did not want to be named for security reasons, reported a deep schism in the party Thursday, as some members believe Mugabe should gracefully cede power.
"The top guys have been given a rude awakening," said the lawmaker, adding that the party's brass is "shell-shocked" by the results and had not expected the apparent defeat.
The lawmaker, who lost his seat to an opposition challenger, further said a presidential runoff "will be a suicide mission" and should be a "last resort" for the ruling party.
"Mugabe is finished," he added.
"We cannot win, so why go for it?" he said. "Once people have tasted victory, you don't take it away from them."
Mugabe, who was prime minister before taking the presidential post in 1987, has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain 28 years ago. The election represents the toughest challenge to power he has ever faced.
Matonga said he did not expect Mugabe to step down.
"I don't see that at all," he said. "And why should he? We have to go all the way. That is what the law says."
On Wednesday, the MDC declared Tsvangirai the outright winner, saying he took 50.3 percent of the almost 2.4 million votes case. The party's secretary-general, Tendai Biti, called for Mugabe to step down and said Tsvangirai would participate in a runoff but only "under protest."
The government blames the delays in announcing results on logistics, noting that four elections were held simultaneously. Matonga has said the law gives the government six days, until Friday, to release the results.
The ZANU-PF lawmaker who wished to remain anonymous said Mugabe will huddle with party leaders Friday to discuss the future of Zimbabwe's leadership.
The state-run newspaper reported Wednesday that Mugabe and Tsvangirai will compete in a presidential runoff because neither candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.
MDC dismissed the report as propaganda, calling it an attempt by Mugabe's government to prepare the public for a runoff. But Matonga said Wednesday that the MDC was claiming victory so it could later allege corruption if Mugabe won.
A year after the last presidential election -- which the MDC alleges was stolen -- the government charged Tsvangirai with treason. He was acquitted. The MDC accused Mugabe of trying to eliminate him as a challenger.
Zimbabwe faced international sanctions after the 2002 election, including travel restrictions on Zimbabwean officials.
A hero of the country's civil war against the white Rhodesian government, Mugabe became the country's first black leader in 1980. Nearly three decades later, he has consolidated his rule over all aspects of Zimbabwean life.
His country was once revered for offering its citizens some of the best education and health care in Africa, but now schooling is a luxury and Zimbabwe has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world.
Zimbabwe was once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa. Today, it is difficult to get basic food supplies. Inflation has skyrocketed to more than 100,000 percent, while food production and agricultural exports have dropped drastically.
Journalist Eunice Mafundikwa in Atlanta contributed to this report.