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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 17:10 GMT
Mugabe 'playing last card'
Zimbabweans walk past posters of Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe
Voters have formed huge queues at polling stations
One of Zimbabwe's leading newspapers, The Standard, predicts that President Robert Mugabe's controversial campaign tactics will backfire on him and he will lose the election.

"Staring defeat in the eye, Mugabe has decided to play his last card, that of resorting to fiction in an attempt to demonise the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai," it said.

The Standard, which reflects opposition opinion, said the public was not convinced by President Mugabe's focus on the "remote issue" of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he accuses of practising colonialism.

Street vendor in Harare holds up local paper with headline
The elections have been relatively peaceful so far

Mr Mugabe has also accused Mr Tsvangirai - his chief rival - of plotting a coup.

The paper noted that other candidates were attacking Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, as if he were the incumbent president.

But a political analyst quoted by The Standard played down the impact of such tactics and said "even their wives are likely to vote for Tsvangirai."

The public, said The Standard, would vote according to who seemed most likely to solve the food shortage and return Zimbabwe to the rule of law and order.

High urban turnout

The Standard reported a high turnout in urban areas on Saturday. It predicted that this would outweigh the 400,000 votes the ruling Zanu-PF had added through the supplementary voters roll, and that Mr Tsvangirai would still win.

A ruling party ZANU-PF supporter holds an election poster
Mugabe is facing his strongest challenge since independence

Mr Tsvangirai himself told The Standard that he would win with 60% of the vote. "The old man is running scared. Time is running out for him," he said.

He scorned Mr Mugabe's whirlwind tour of election rallies, saying it was futile to try to drum up support so late in the campaign. He also said the MDC would bridge the rural-urban divide.

According to The Standard, the government ordered election observers to stay 100 metres away from polling stations, in order to "reduce overcrowding".

Border tension

The paper also said that Zimbabweans returning from South Africa to vote had been turned back at the Beitbridge border crossing and told to fix their residence status.

The chief immigration officer at Beitbridge, David Chitsaka, denied the report, saying that the South African press was creating such stories to discredit the Zimbabwean immigration authorities.

Government-controlled ZBC 3FM radio said Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede had warned people who renounced Zimbabwean citizenship "not to create problems at polling stations by attempting to vote".

Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo praised voters for their responsible behaviour, according to the radio.

"Zimbabweans have demonstrated to the international community that they are capable of organising their own elections in a peaceful manner," he said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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See also:

07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Zimbabwe
10 Mar 02 | Africa
Call to extend Zimbabwe vote
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