Coercion Reported as Zimbabwe Runoff Begins
Update: Reports are coming in of forced voting:
In Kambuzuma, a Harare suburb, only five people had voted by 9 a.m., and polling officers were left to pass the time chatting.
“I don’t see the logic of going to vote when there is only one candidate,” said one Kambuzuma resident who withheld his name out of fear. “It’s a waste of resources and time. I can’t legitimize an illegitimate process.”
In some other suburbs of Harare, residents said they were rounded up Thursday night, forced to chant pro-Mugabe slogans until daybreak and then force-marched to the polls. They were told to copy the serial number off their ballot so it could be confirmed later that they had voted for their 84-year-old president.
“I voted for Mugabe because I didn’t want to risk my life,” said a man who identified himself only as Abel. He had obediently copied the serial number off his ballot in Warren Park, just outside of Harare. His finger was red.
In case the violence and intimidation aren't enough, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is also voting for himself in today's controversial runoff election.
"I feel very fit and very optimistic," a beaming Mugabe told reporters afterward before getting in his Mercedes limousine to leave with his wife, Grace (44). He made no other comment.
His three children were also at the polling station at a primary school in the Highfields section of the capital -- where Mugabe routinely votes.
He used to live in the working-class neighbourhood, which played a key role in the country's liberation movement during the fight against white rule.
The 84-year-old leader shook hands with several officials before going inside. He did not greet any of the about 30 voters in line.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who officially withdrew from the run-off on Tuesday citing mounting violence and intimidation and called on MDC supporters not to vote.Reports from Harare, the capital say voting began shortly after 0500 GMT and turnout was low at many polling stations. Polling is scheduled to end at 1700 GMT.
Western observers and 'unsympathetic' foreign journalists, who were keen to cover the election, were barred from the country.
The Group of Eight said it's impossible for the vote to be free and fair because of systematic violence by the Zimbabwean authorities, according to a statement by the G-8's foreign ministers. Morgan Tsvangirai, the 56-year-old leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, urged voters to stay away from the polls if they could without risking their lives.
Mugabe rejects poll delay demands
Queen Elizabeth II reverses Mugabe's knighthood
Mugabe: "Only God can remove me from power"