Zimbabweans vote in tense election

Opposition allege that poll is being rigged in favour of president and ruling party.

    Supporters of Tsvangirai are hoping that Mugabe's 28-year-old rule will come to an end [AFP]

    "We are ready for a fight... It will be a good fight against the British, to deal them a final blow," Mugabe said.
    Protest vote
    Mugabe is facing his toughest test as president since coming to power in 1980, amid an economic crisis.
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    Zimbabwe has the highest rate of inflation in the world - over 100,000 per cent - and 80 per cent of the workforce is unemployed.
    A house of a Zanu-PF parliamentary candidate in Bulwayo was bombed early on Saturday, in the first violent incident during the election.
    "Early this morning a house in Emakhandeni...constituency was bombed. We have since retrieved explosive devices ... No arrests have been made as yet and no one was injured," Wayne Bvudzijena, chief police spokesman, said.
    Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Bulawayo, said that while many people were voting, others were more concerned with getting fresh water and bread, highlighting the economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

    "The people I spoke to in the voting line are telling me that they are going to vote in protest - they don't actually think their vote is going to matter," she said.
    Mutasa said some opposition supporters are also concerned that the potential voter base against Mugabe is being split between Tsvangirai and Makoni, to the benefit of Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

    'Ghost' voters
    According to Zimbabwe's electoral commission, 5.9 million people are eligible to vote.
    In depth

    Robert Mugabe

    Morgan Tsvangirai

    Simba Makoni

    In video
    'Ghost voters' haunt Zimbabwe election

    But the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an opposition party, revealed documents, leaked from the state security printer, showing nine million ballot papers ordered by the commission.
    Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, has alleged that the surplus ballot papers will be used to rig the vote.


    He told supporters in Domboshava that fraud was the only thing that would keep him from victory.  

    "This time we won't fail," he said.


    "It's now time to give Mugabe a red card and his pension. Those who refuse to join this bandwagon will need cleansing."


    The military is patrolling the capital Harare in armoured personnel carriers and security forces across the country have been placed on full alert for the poll.


    Zimbabwean security chiefs said on Friday that they are ready to confront any violence that may surround the elections.

    Augustine Chihuri, police commissioner, said anyone who harboured "evil" intentions would face the full force of the law.
    "Those who have been breathing fire about the Kenyan-style violence should be warned that violence is a poor substitute for intelligence and that it is a monster that can devour its creator, as it is blind and not selective in nature," he said.
    Mugabe warning
    Mugabe himself warned his opponents to not even "dare" think about resorting to violence in the event of his victory.

    Tsvangirai told Al Jazeera that there should be no violence on behalf of his party but could not give any assurances as to how the people of Zimbabwe would react.

    Mugabe is running for a sixth term as
    president of Zimbabwe [AFP]

    In their first joint statement, Tsvangirai, Makoni and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway MDC faction,

    said on Thursday that an independent scrutiny of voters' lists showed

    severe discrepancies.

    Makoni, who is standing as an independent candidate spoke for all three groups opposing Mugabe.
    "There is a very well thought out and sophisticated plan to steal the election from us," he said.
    Opposition appeal
    Tsvangirai has urged voters to remain at polling stations after casting their ballots, in order to protect their votes.
    He also called on public servants not to defraud voters.
    "Mugabe cannot rig elections by himself. If someone tells you to falsify the results of the elections, ignore the instructions, because it is unlawful," he said.
    The opposition said the voter registration list shows that between December 2007 and February 2008 the number of new voters increased by up to 11 per cent in sparsely populated rural areas, where the ruling Zanu-PF party holds most power. 
    This compares with a 2 per cent increase in urban opposition strongholds, the oppostion says.
    "This is a five-fold difference which is not supported by our urban and rural demographic profile. We don't understand the discrepancy," Makoni said.
    State media predicted on Friday that Mugabe would win an outright majority in the first round of voting, thus negating the need for a run-off within three weeks.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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