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Zimbabweans hope for change

Latest update : 2008-03-29

Voters have been queuing at polling stations since before dawn to determine whether Robert Mugabe will remain Zimbabwe's president. The election has been marred by violence, with an explosion outside the home of a member of the ruling party.

Some 5.9 million Zimbabwean voters head to the polls in a general election (presidential and legislative) on a day marred by violence after several Molotov cocktails exploded outside the house of a ruling party candidate Saturday morning.

 
No one was hurt in the explosion which took place in the city of Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold and the country’s second largest city.

 
According to RFI correspondent Alex Duvall Smith reporting for FRANCE 24, the explosion represents “a very significant development.”

 
“If indeed the opposition has planted a bomb it would be an unprecedented move, especially since they have always called for peace,” she said.

 
A move that is almost certain to provoke serious repression, adds our correspondent: “The government paraded armed personnel carriers and water cannons through the streets yesterday and has warned of a major clampdown if there is any violence at all.”

 
“Some Thing might just happen”

 
According to news agencies, voters queued before dawn to vote on Saturday, some of them even sleeping at polling stations.

 
"I want to vote because things are so bad, and maybe this election will help change that," one man told Reuters. The 35-year-old security guard had walked for more than two hours to reach his polling station in a Harare township.

 

With the country in a disastrous economic state, the election may be 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s biggest challenge since Britain recognised Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

 
Running against Mugabe are veteran opposition leader and former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, who defected from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF ruling party.

 
Bloggers inside the country described a mood of rare elation, with many saying that, for once, they believed change could be on its way. “There’s a sense of purpose today, a vibe, an anticipation and smell of promise that Some Thing (sic) might just happen,” write the authors of Kubatana.net, an online community of activists.

 
The problem with “ghost voters”

 
Both Tsvangirai and Makoni say only vote rigging can prevent them from winning this time. "We believe there is a very well thought-out, sophisticated and premeditated plan to steal this election from us," Makoni said.

 
The opposition believes it has a chance to break through because Mugabe’s economic track record is disastrous.

 

Up to 80% of the population is unemployed. The 2007 inflation rate topped 100,000%. There is chronic shortage of basics, such as food and fuel. Life expectancy has dropped to 37 years for men and 34 for women, in part due to the rampant HIV/AIDS crisis.
 

 
The state-appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on Friday rejected opposition accusations that thousands of non-existent "ghost voters," including dead people, were added to the voters roll to ensure ZANU-PF victory.

 
"We don't rig elections. I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have rigged [the election]," Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe assured as he cast his ballot in the capital Harare.

 

Most international election observers have been banned from Zimbabwe, as have most foreign journalists. A team from the regional SADC grouping, which critics accuse of being too soft on Mugabe, has been allowed to monitor the elections from within the country.

Date created : 2008-03-29

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