Voters Head to Polls in Zimbabwe Presidential Vote

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, faces his most serious challenge yet as he tries to win a sixth term in office on Saturday in a country where eight of every 10 people are unemployed and the inflation rate is 100,000 percent.

Despite AP reports of minor violence, Beatrice Mtetwa, an official election observer in Harare and a critic of the Mugabe government, tells Susan Stamberg that she has seen no violence or evidence of problems like ballot tampering at the polling stations she has visited.

"There [have] been long queues at some polling stations, especially in the high-density suburbs," says Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer and president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe. "But there is a lot of joviality. ... The one determination that is apparent wherever you go is that people want to cast their vote peacefully."

Mtetwa says there have been complaints about the accuracy of the voter rolls. "We've had a large number of people being turned over from polling stations for one reason or another — because their names may not be on the roll or their documentation is not in order," she says. "Of course, it is compiled by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, whose independence is in doubt generally in Zimbabwe."

Mtetwa says police officers have been stationed at the entrances of the six or seven polling stations she's visited and she has seen them helping voters who need assistance. "I don't know whether that is having any effect at all, because obviously you don't know what the person who is voting is feeling," she says, "but, of course, given the track record of the police in the past, it wasn't a good idea to get them to be involved in the polling, particularly assisting persons, because of the fear that the police have generally, you know, been associated with in the past."

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