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Zim votes in Mugabe-Tsvangirai showdown

Zimbabweans voted in large numbers on Wednesday in a fiercely contested election pitting veteran President Robert Mugabe against Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who has vowed to push Africa’s oldest leader into retirement after 33 years in power.

With no reliable opinion polls, it is hard to say whether 61-year-old Tsvangirai will succeed in his third attempt to unseat 89-year-old Mugabe, who has run the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980. Both sides are forecasting landslide wins.

But, in a country with a history of election violence, the big question is whether the loser will accept the result of a poll dogged by logistical problems and allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation. Mugabe, who rejects past and present charges of vote-fixing, has said he will concede if defeated.
Polls opened on time at 0500 GMT, with long queues of people braving unseasonably cold weather to stand in line from well before dawn.

At one polling station in the western province of Manicaland, a key swing region, the queue of voters, many wrapped up in blankets, stretched for a kilometre. ‘I got up at 4 but still couldn’t get the first position in the line. My fingers are numb but I’m sure I can mark the ballot all the same. I’m determined to vote and have my vote counted,’ said sawmill worker Clifford Chasakara.

In Harare, the epicentre of Tsvangirai support, the mood was excited and upbeat. A large turnout, especially in cities, is likely to benefit Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, analysts say.

‘We are here to vote and I’m convinced Harare will lead the way to change,’ John Phiri, a domestic worker in his 30s, said in a polling station in the upmarket Mount Pleasant suburb. Casting his vote at a high school in Harare, Tsvangirai said he expected to win ‘quite resoundingly.’ Tsvangirai said he was moved by the sight of the long line of voters. Results are expected within the five-day legal limit. Around 6.4 million people are registered to vote.
Agencies

Agencies

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