No rigging in first election since end of Mugabe rule, official says

Zimbabwe elections robert mugabe

The landmark vote has been touted as the first time the African nation will hold an election without the former strongman in nearly four decades, but although Mugabe is not on the ballot, his influence continues to be felt.

A senior opposition official and lawyer, David Coltart, said he was afraid of double voting and a possible repeat of the 2002 presidential election when thousands were disenfranchised when polling stations closed before some could vote.

I just want a government that will create jobs. I am not leaving anything to chance.

Officials on Tuesday counted votes a day after millions of Zimbabweans peacefully cast their votes in a process closely watched by worldwide monitors, who have yet to announce whether the election was free and fair.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in a historic vote for the southern African nation.

Mugabe, 94, who was ousted by the military in November, voted at his customary polling station in Harare alongside his wife Grace after a surprise two-hour press conference at his home on Sunday when he called for voters to reject ZANU-PF.

"I can not vote for those who had reduced me to this condition‚" he said‚ referring to the coup d'etat in November which saw him replaced by former deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwa. "Victory is certainly certain!"

However, Mr Mnangagwa was expected to claw back ground in the ruling Zanu-PF rural heartland.

President Mnangagwa urged voters to be peaceful on Monday.

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And he added: "Whoever wins, we wish him well ..." He voted and told reporters he took Mugabe's criticism in stride, saying: "He is a citizen". It has been a hotly contested race but there is an air of optimism unlike the nervousness I've witnessed covering previous elections here.

President Mnangagwa is on record saying Zimbabwe had come of age politically and had nothing to hide to the outside world. There will be a runoff on 8 September if no candidate wins more than half the votes.

"This is a critical moment in Zimbabwe's democratic journey", said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president and a leader of one of the global observer missions.

There were no immediate reports of violence, said Andrew Makoni, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an association of 34 civil rights and religious organizations. "The lines and voter enthusiasm we are seeing this morning must be matched by an accurate count and their choice must be honoured".

If Mnangagwa does not take the vote - it will be the first time in Zimbabwe's 38-year history that the political party Zanu-PF will not be in power.

At one stage, he was seen taking his head out of the voting booth to check where he should put his cross on the ballot.

Even though it was a public holiday, some government offices were open so that those who had lost identity cards could get replacements and then cast their ballots.

After the polling officers were satisfied, they issued the President with three ballot papers.

Liberia's former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was monitoring the poll on behalf of the US-based National Democratic Institute, told the BBC that Monday's long queues showed Zimbabweans were enthusiastic about voting, without any kind of repression.

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