BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Page last updated at 21:40 GMT, Saturday, 29 March 2008

Zimbabwean voters elect president

Woman votes at polling station in Harare, Zimbabwe
Some said they had no problems casting their votes

Polling stations have closed in Zimbabwe, ending voting in elections that will decide whether President Robert Mugabe wins a sixth term.

His challengers are Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party and ex-finance minister and independent Simba Makoni.

Queues formed early, but voting died down later in the day. Some voters complained of irregularities.

The MDC feared the poll would be rigged but Mr Mugabe said as he cast his vote in Harare: "We don't rig elections."

Reports from polling stations said officials began to close voting booths as scheduled at 1900 local time (1700 GMT) but people still queuing were allowed to vote later.

Counting will take place at the polling stations, but the results still need to be collated at various other centres.

Preliminary results are expected by Monday. A candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off in three weeks' time.

I was distressed and disappointed to be turned away after hours of queuing
Tia, Harare

Long queues formed in some areas before the polls opened at 0500 GMT, but there were reports that other polling stations were virtually deserted.

Correspondents say opposition members are concerned that many voters feared intimidation and stayed at home.

A presidential decree ahead of the elections had permitted police to go into polling stations, ostensibly to help illiterate voters.

The MDC said some of its party agents were prevented from entering polling stations.

Across the country, there were reports of voters not being allowed to cast ballots - either because their names were not on the voters' roll or because they were trying to vote in the wrong ward.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe voting on 29 March 2008
Mr Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's problems on a Western plot

One UK resident said his sister was "disappointed and distressed" to be turned away "even though when she checked a couple of weeks ago she was on the [register]".

Others found the system fair and efficient. Sandra, 23, told the BBC by phone from Bulawayo: "There is a long queue behind me but it is moving. People around me are quiet and are waiting patiently to cast their vote."

A number of people also said they found names of dead relatives on the electoral roll.

Petrol bomb

Nearly six million people are eligible to vote.

There are local, senate, assembly and presidential polls, raising fears of confusion.

ZIMBABWE POLLS - KEY FACTS
Some 5.9m eligible voters
They elect president, parliament and local government
Nearly 9,000 polling stations
Polls opened at 0500 GMT and close at 1700 GMT
Winner needs more than 50% to avoid presidential run-off

On Thursday, Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Makoni jointly expressed severe concerns about the polls.

Pan-African Parliament observers have now reportedly written to the electoral commission, saying 8,450 voters had been registered on a patch of deserted land in Harare.

But an African Union observer, Yvonne Khamati, told Kenyan TV: "Everything seems regular and people are coming out to vote. There is no sign of the military or police."

Voting passed off largely peacefully although a petrol bomb exploded overnight at the home of the ruling Zanu-PF party's Mary Nsingo in Bulawayo, injuring the councillor.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The elections will no doubt be free and fair. The allegations being peddled are unfounded and based on hearsay
Sosten Musiniwa, Harare

Mr Makoni was one of the early voters and complained his polling station in Harare opened late and ballot casting was slow. However, he said he was confident.

"I feel good, I voted for the best candidate, I voted for Simba Makoni," he said.

President Mugabe later cast his vote in Harare and, when asked of his chances, said: "This time around, like the last time, very good... we will succeed and we will conquer."

He added: "I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have rigged."

Mr Tsvangirai also said he expected to win as he cast his ballot in the capital.

"Victory is assured in spite of the regime's attempt to subvert the will of the people," he said.

'Full alert'

BBC southern African correspondent Peter Biles says Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF will be relying on support from voters in the countryside, while the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is strongest in the cities.

Morgan Tsvangirai votes in Harare
Morgan Tsvangirai said he was confident of victory

But in recent days it has become increasingly difficult to predict the outcome, he adds.

The MDC says it is fighting to save Zimbabwe's economy.

The country has the world's highest inflation rate, at more than 100,000%, and just one adult in five is believed to have a regular job.

Mr Mugabe blames a Western plot for ruining the economy.

If you are voting send us your experiences by text on +44 7786 20 50 85.

video and audio news
Robert Mugabe casting his vote



RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific