There were hordes of registered voters braving the freezing Zimbabwe weather to queue at polling stations, some as early as 4am this morning, even before the official opening of polls at 7am to elect a president among five candidates which includes the incumbent President, 89-year-old Robert Mugabe, and current Prime Minister, 61-year-old Morgan Tsvangirai. Voters will as well elect Parliamentarians and other sub-national political officers.
According to SADC and AU observers, the electoral process has been peaceful, smooth so far apart from minor glitches. "So far so good," said Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria who is leading the AU observer mission, after visiting a polling station in Harare.
However, the most worrying news is of voters being turned away because their names are not in the voters roll or they do not have proper identification or their names are in a different ward. For instance in Mount Pleasant, Harare where Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister and opposition leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, cast his vote with his wife, Elizabeth, 129 people were turned away by the presiding officer because their names were in ward 20 Mazowe South.
However, at the ZEC Press Conference, the Chairperson says all those turned away because voter slips do not indicate their wards have been advised to go back and vote.
Among the two key contestants, Morgan Tsvangirai cast his vote first and told reporters this is a historic moment for everyone to complete the delayed runoff from 2008. "I am winning resoundingly" he added that this election is a "life and death vote".
President Mugabe and candidate for the ZANU-PF cast his vote together with his family at Mhofu primary school in Highfield Township, Harare and told journalists afterwards that "I will serve five years if I win, I will not cheat my people if they vote for me."
"I'm sure people will vote freely and fairly," and he added that "There's no pressure being exerted on anyone."
In the course of the voting, the opposition MDC-T organized a press conference at Harvest House addressed by the party's Secretary General, Tendai Biti who claimed the voters roll has 200,000 people over the age of 103. ZEC is an "arrogant group of people" and also said they "have already made clear this election is illegal, illegitimate, unfree and unfair... We are participating with a heavy heart."
Presidential results are expected to be released five days after the close of poll and if no candidate receives 50% + 1 of valid votes in the first round, a second round will be conducted between the top two candidates on September 11, 2013.