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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 20:04 GMT
Election halted in Zimbabwe
Police stop voters entering a polling booth
Some polling stations were kept closed
The Zimbabwean High Court has denied a request by the country's chief opposition party to extend voting in the presidential poll by another day.

If these thousands of people are not allowed to vote, this is a stillborn election

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
Eric Matinenga, a lawyer for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said that Paddington Garwe, the High Court's top judge, had ruled that he had no jurisdiction over the issue - "this was a matter within the province of the registrar-general".

The court ruling came shortly after the government ordered an end to voting, despite continuing queues of voters in opposition strongholds.

The request to the High Court was a last ditch attempt by the MDC to extend voting in the election, which has been fraught with violence and accusations of vote rigging.

Angry scenes

Riot police had only a few hours before ordered hundreds of voters to leave polling stations in the capital, Harare, after Mr Mudede's order.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt said that some voters still in the queue at 7pm local time had been allowed to cast their vote, but there were angry scenes at other stations.

In the Harare suburb of Glen Norah police wielding batons fired tear gas to disperse 600 people waiting to vote.

When ordered to go home, they began chanting "Change, change, we want to vote!" the Associated Press news agency reported.

The MDC had attempted to lengthen the voting process after fears that many of its electorate had been prevented from casting their votes.

Voters in the Glenview township wait to vote
Some voters queued for more than 50 hours in vain
The High Court had ordered polling stations to re-open across the country after the MDC accused the government of deliberately frustrating the vote in MDC strongholds to improve President Robert Mugabe's chances of re-election.

Polling stations in the capital Harare did re-open several hours late on Monday, but the government refused to let voting resume in rural areas.

Thousands of angry Zimbabweans had ignored soaring temperatures to line up at polling stations in order to cast their vote.

The BBC's Lewis Machipisa said the long lines of voters included both old and young, with some in wheelchairs and crutches, others blind and unable to read or write.

Despite earlier reports of violence, supporters of both the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition parties were seen standing peacefully side by side after a ban was imposed on wearing party regalia.

Observers held

Also on Monday two American diplomats accredited as election observers were held by police for several hours, while in Brussels European Union foreign ministers said they had received reports of voting irregularities.

regional reports from around Zimbabwe
Choose a link below for latest news from around the country:

  1. Harare
  2. Mashonaland
  3. Matebeleland
  4. Midlands
  5. Manicaland
  6. Masvingo

The diplomats, detained along with two colleagues, were held for several hours by Zimbabwean police in the town of Chinhoyi, 120 km (75 miles) north of Harare.

The European Union and US have warned President Mugabe's government to allow free and fair elections or face international sanctions.

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the elections "are not fair".

"The reports we are getting from Harare do not lead to positive conclusions," she said after a meeting of foreign ministers.


Our names had to be checked on four different rolls and as those checking didn't know the alphabet, this took ages

Brian, Zimbabwe
arrow Click here to tell us your experiences

"Voters do not have sufficient access to polling stations."

The MDC also said three of its leaders, including secretary general Welshman Ncube, had been arrested by police in the south-western town of Plumtree.

Figures released by the government put turnout in government strongholds like Mashonaland Central at 68%, compared to just 47% in Harare, where support for the MDC is thought to be strongest.

P> Some 5.6 million people are eligible to vote in the election, in which President Mugabe faces a strong challenge to his 22-year rule from MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zanu-PF's Philip Chiyangwa
"There were numerous polling stations that had no people at all"
MDC's David Coltart
"The vote in Harare is critically important"
The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"They were still queuing in their thousands tonight"

Key stories

The vote



See also:

11 Mar 02 | Africa
E-mailers' voting resolve
11 Mar 02 | Africa
In pictures: Zimbabwe votes
10 Mar 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe election in quotes
10 Mar 02 | Media reports
Mugabe 'playing last card'
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