Counting started in Zimbabwe’s general election after polls closed on a day of high turnout and relatively peaceful voting, with partial results expected on Thursday, an official said.
Rita Makarau, head of the Zimbabwe Election Commission, said, “Reports from all provinces indicate polling was peaceful and orderly. I believe the election is free and fair.”
The United States of America Embassy’s observation team and “other accredited observers” found that “most polling stations opened on time, they are efficiently processing voters, and that they’re operating in a peaceful environment,” US State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said in Washington late on Wednesday.
Participation was high among the 6.4 million registered voters of the 13 million populations.
Polling stations stayed open until midnight to allow those still in the long queues by the official closing time of 7pm to cast their ballot, the ZEC said.
Front-runners of the five candidates were President Robert Mugabe, 89, from the Zanu-PF party; and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61, from the Movement for Democratic Change, currently in a coalition government. The MDC complained of intimidation.
Election observers said some voters were turned away but added the impact of the reported incidents could not be assessed.In the 2008 election, Tsvangirai won the first round, but did not get enough votes to avoid a run-off.
Widespread intimidation, including the deaths of some 200 of his supporters, forced him to pull out of the run-off.
If Wednesday’s vote does not produce a winner with at least 50 per cent of the vote, the run-off will be held on September 11.
Mugabe has vowed not to contest the results of the election.