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Polls open in crunch Zimbabwe elections

Updated: 2013-07-31 15:38
( Xinhua)

Polls open in crunch Zimbabwe elections

A man rides a bicycle past election posters of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe in Harare July 30, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

HARARE - Zimbabweans went to the polls on Wednesday to elect a president, parliament members and local councillors.

The presidential voting will largely be a showdown between veteran President Robert Mugabe, who has led the country for the past 33 years, and his long-time archrival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Some 6.4 million voters will also vote for more than 200 members of parliament and thousands of local councillors.

At a polling station at the Alexandra Park Primary School in Harare's north suburb, hundred of policemen who had failed to cast ballots in early voting queued from 5 a.m. to vote. They were given priority to vote before being deployed to duty.

Civilian voters, some in thick quilts, formed a long throng outside the polling station at 4 a.m. in Harare's chilly winter morning.

"We need change, we need new ideas," a voter who identified himself as Edmore told Xinhua. He said he expects the opposition to win because the ruling party has taken long into power.

A polling official, who declined to be named, said the electoral staff worked overnight to prepare for the smooth start of the voting.

Tsvangirai, who won more votes in the first round of voting in the 2008 elections but lost to Mugabe in the disputed second round. The two men have since been forced into a coalition government.

Voting centers run from 7:00 am (0500 GMT) to 7:00 pm (1700 GMT) in the landlocked southern African country.

A vote count will immediately commence after polls close. Results for the final presidential vote will be announced within five days.  If no candidate wins 50 percent plus one vote, which is required for an outright win, a run-off will be held on Sept 11.

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