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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 13:04 GMT
Zimbabwe voters face long wait
Voters at Avendale Primary School polling station, Harare
Delays are fuelling suspicions of vote-rigging (AP)
Long queues have again formed at polling stations in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, as people vote on the second day of the country's presidential elections.

Some voters spent the night in the open, wrapped in blankets, waiting for the polling stations to re-open. One station in Harare stayed open all night to cope with the large turnout.

If the authorities refuse to extend [the vote] it would be a tragedy for this country

Morgan Tsvangirai
While accusing officials of deliberately slowing the process down, opposition leaders are calling for voting to be extended for two more days to give thousands of people frustrated by the lengthy queues the chance to cast their ballots.

Some 5.6 million people are eligible to vote in the election, in which President Robert Mugabe faces a strong challenge to his 22-year rule from Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Morgan Tsvangirai votes
Tsvangirai said he could not "prejudge" the vote's outcome
Mr Tsvangirai cast his ballot on Sunday - his 50th birthday - and renewed calls for a two-day extension of the vote.

"If the authorities refuse to extend it would be a tragedy for this country," he said. "People have expressed themselves and we are awaiting the outcome."

Mr Tsvangirai's MDC party on Sunday said it had filed an urgent application to extend the vote with the High Court, which was due to hear the request at 1400 (1300 GMT).

Zimbabwe's Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, has said that polling would be extended "if it becomes necessary".


Tempers were wearing thin among those queuing to vote by the time polling officially ended on Saturday at 1700 GMT, and at one station in Harare voters angry at the long wait clashed with police.


The striking feature of our long wait was the sense of purpose and determination amongst all who waited - whether black or white

Brian, Ro and Craig, Zimbabwe
arrow Click here to tell us your experiences
The authorities said the delays had been caused by a surprisingly high turnout and some stations had stayed open beyond the official closing time.

Reports on Sunday said the wait to vote appeared more orderly after police ordered voters to queue in single-file, men standing separately from women.

State radio reported that electoral officials planned to add voting booths to the polling stations to alleviate the wait.

Zimbabwe votes:
  • Leading candidates: President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai
  • Polling stations open 0700 - 1900 (0500 - 1700 GMT) Saturday and Sunday
  • 5.6 million registered to vote
  • 4,548 polling stations within 120 constituencies

      Q&A: Election basics

      Regional reports

  • One of those who had spent the night outside waiting to vote was Patricia Ngwira. She had already spent eight hours the previous day outside a Harare polling station.

    "I wasn't going to go away. I must have my vote," she said.

    Reginald Matchabe-Hove, chairman of independent observer group the Election Support Network, said only 30% of those who queued to vote on Saturday had voted.

    "There is no way this can be completed in two days," he said.

    Mr Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said the government was "perfectly happy" with Saturday's ballot and was not concerned by complaints of slow voting.

    Correspondents say last-minute changes to the election laws, changes to the voter register and a reduction in the number of polling stations in urban areas, have slowed the process dramatically.


    After casting his vote on Saturday, Mr Mugabe hit out at his critics - at home and abroad.

    "They are supporters of the opposition. It is not only prejudice, it is bias against the [ruling party], bias against President Mugabe, and bias in favour of the opposition."

    In the run-up to the election, the European Union and United States imposed sanctions on Mr Mugabe and his aides, citing political violence and manipulation of the election process.

    Within the region, the poll is seen as crucial for Zimbabwe's neighbours, as the country's economic crisis has hit trade - depriving South Africa of multi-million-dollar foreign investment - and created a new refugee problem.

    Mr Mugabe's opponents say misrule and controversial land grabs by his supporters are largely to blame for the economic crisis.

    The BBC's Hilary Andersson
    "The high turnout is good news for the opposition"
    George Shire, supporter of Robert Mugabe
    "It is a demonstration of people's involvement in democracy"
    Mduduzi Mathuthu of the Zimbawe Daily News
    "The elections can never be free and fair"

    Key stories

    The vote



    See also:

    10 Mar 02 | Africa
    Zimbabwe election in quotes
    09 Mar 02 | Africa
    In pictures: Zimbabwe votes
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