Voting closes in Zimbabwe as Obasango endorses elections credible

Zimbabweans formed long queues to vote in a poll that is tightly contested

Zimbabweans formed long queues to vote in a poll that is tightly contested

Voting has officially closed in Zimbabwe, in a keenly contested election that will decide whether Africa’s oldest leader Robert Mugabe extends his 33 years rule or make way for a younger leadership.

Five candidates are standing in the presidential election, but Mugabe’s main rival is Morgan Tsvangirai, the current prime minister.

Voting closed at 1700 GMT, after a day that started with long queues of people braving unseasonably cold weather to stand in line from well before dawn.

The Election Commission (ZEC) reported high turnout across the country in an election that will end an uneasy coalition government formed after violence marred the 2008 vote.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said in a Twitter message that people who were still at polling stations after the election officially closed will still be allowed to vote.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, heading an African Union observer team, said he thought the process had been “peaceful, orderly and free and fair”.

“My hope is that this will be what the report will be from all polling stations throughout the country,” he told reporters.

Earlier, African Union said the initial assessment of the situation is peaceful and orderly, TVC News correspondent Jody Jacobs, reporting from Harare said,

“AU observer mission says at this early stage, it seems the vote will reflect the will of the people,” Jacobs said.

Mugabe voting 1ZANU-PF’s Mugabe, accompanied by his wife Grace and son voted at a polling station in Highveld close to State House in the capital, Harare.

Tsvangirai, 61, also accompanied by his wife, told journalists after voting that he expected to win “quite resoundingly” and that it was more a question of “when” rather than “if.”

Both sides are forecasting landslide wins, but analysts say it was too close to call.

Mugabe, on the eve of the vote said he will respect the outcome of the poll.

“If you go into a process and join a competition where there are only two outcomes, win or lose, you can’t be both. You either win or lose. If you lose, you must surrender.”

He also had a conciliatory message for Tsvangirai, 61.

“I’ve got my fair share of criticisms and also dealt back rights and lefts and uppercuts. But that’s the game. Although we boxed each other, with Tsvangirai, it’s not as hostile as before. It’s all over now. We can now shake hands,” he said.

Around 6.4 million people, or half the population, are registered to vote.

In Harare, where Tsvangirai and his MDC party hold sway, the mood was upbeat.

“We are here to vote and I’m convinced Harare will lead the way to change,” John Phiri, a house cleaner in his 30s, said in a polling station in the upmarket Mount Pleasant suburb.

Results are expected well within a five-day deadline intended to prevent a repeat of problems seen in the last election in 2008, when big delays led to serious violence.

Source: TVC News