Zimbabwe Voters Go to the Polls in Close Presidential Election

Photo: The Herald
These two gentlemen leave the Ushewekunze Tent E polling station in Harare South Constituency, after their bid to skip the queue failed. They pretended that one in the hand-drawn cart was sick, therefore was supposed to be given exception to standing in the queue.

The polls have opened for Zimbabwe's presidential election as the nation's 5 million voters consider 23 candidates on the ballot -- although the likely choice comes down to two men. Missing is ousted leader Robert Mugabe.

Age in the form of 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa takes on relative youth in 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa as the leading candidates for the election, which got underway on Monday at 7 a.m. local time (0500 UTC).

In all, there are 23 candidates -- and none of them are the 94-year-old former president Robert Mugabe who came to power in 1980 and was obliged to leave it last November after a military coup.

Mugabe's long-term ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa, known for his political style as the Crocodile, took over. He promised reforms and an economic recovery.

At a final rally at the national stadium, Mnangagwa said: "People are saying, and I share their views, that something special is coming to Zimbabwe."

"Once re-elected on Monday with a real mandate for change and a full five-year term, I guarantee you it's 'Go and Go' in our country. My commitment is to bring concrete change that will give comfort to all Zimbabweans."

However, in a televised statement on Sunday, Mugabe said he would not be voting for the ruling ZANU-PF party he founded. He hinted he would be backing Chamisa.

Head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Chamisa is a lawyer and pastor appealing to young and unemployed voters. They are seeking a change after forty years of ZANU-PF rule.

"The momentum is huge. Victory is certain. There is nothing that can stop the people of Zimbabwe claiming their victory," Chamisa told reporters on Sunday. "We are pulling out all the stops. We are leaving no stone unturned ... to make sure we win this election."

If no candidate wins more than half of the votes, a second round run-off will be held on September 8.

jm/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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