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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March 2005, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Voting across Zimbabwe
As Zimbabweans go to the polls to elect a new parliament, local journalists report how the vote has gone around the country.

Because of strict media laws, the journalists did not want their names to be used.

Harare

There were long queues of voters early in the morning, despite the light rain.

But by mid-afternoon, they had all but disappeared, leaving many polling agents with very little to do.

I went to several polling stations where I found just a handful of people casting their votes.

At one polling station in central Harare, there wasn't a single voter in sight for about 10 minutes.

But where turnout was high, security was tight with at least three police officers keeping an eye on proceedings at each polling station.

There were polling agents from both major parties in all the polling stations I visited.

There has been no reports of any violence.

I have also seen lots of election observers from different countries.

In the low density areas, which used to be exclusively white, I only saw a few white people waiting to queue.

Many have left the country in recent years.

Bulawayo

Voting has been peaceful in Zimbabwe's second city, under the hot sun.

There are many more polling stations than in recent elections, so the queues are not all that long, except in one or two areas.

Many of those in the queues were women and some of them told me they were eager to have more women in parliament, as they were tired of being ruled by men.

Police officers tell me there have been no arrests for political violence.

However, an opposition MDC polling agent in the Insiza constituency 90km to the south, was abducted from his home village on Wednesday night, as he prepared to go to his polling station.

There has been a lot of trouble in this area in recent years, after the MDC won the seat in 2000.

Last week, ruling party activists told people that a vote for the MDC would be a "Vote for starvation".

Some teachers, who are serving as polling officers have also complained that they have been deployed away from the constituencies where they have registered, so they will not be able to vote.

From Tsholotsho, north of Bulawayo, where controversial former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo is running as an independent, there have been no reports of any trouble.

Mutare

Voting has been going on peacefully since 0700 local time (0500 GMT).

But there has been some confusion over new rules, under which voters have to queue in different lines, according to their surnames.

Those who surnames start with A-L are in queue, those whose names start with M are in another and those whose surnames begin with L-Z in a third queue.

This has led to some disorderly scenes, with voters trying to find the right queue.

Many Zimbabweans have surnames starting with M and so this queue is the longest, with people waiting for several hours to vote.

Some people have been going to different polling stations to find a shorter M queue.

It looks as though voting may have to be extended until after 1900 local time (1700 GMT) to let those already in the queues cast their ballots.

Masvingo

Hundreds of people thronged outside polling stations two hours before they opened, heeding a call from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to vote early.

People were anxious to vote. The queues were divided alphabetically and there were many more polling stations so by 1000 local time (0800GMT), most people had voted and the polling stations were largely empty.

No incidents of violence have been reported.

But some local election observers, who had official accreditation, were denied access to some polling stations.

The ZEC has not commented.

In the afternoon I visited rural areas and there was just a trickle of voters.

Soldiers are patrolling the streets of Masvingo in army trucks.

Polling agents from both major parties were represented at all of the 30 polling stations I visited.

Now people are keen to know the results.


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