Polls Open for Disputed Election in Zimbabwe

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In Zimbabwe, polls opened Friday morning for a presidential runoff where only one candidate is actually running. Opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out after scores of his supporters were killed and others brutalized. Robert Mugabe is therefore poised to remain president.

Leaders from around the world have condemned the vote as a sham and called on the president to postpone the election, which Mugabe has refused to do.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who is monitoring the situation from neighboring South Africa, tells co-host Renee Montagne that turnout at the polls has been low. But "the opposition has been saying for the last 24 hours or so that people are going to be forced to vote for President Robert Mugabe," Quist-Arcton says.

She says Mugabe's thugs reportedly have been holding "a sort of powwow" where people are being ordered to vote for him. Anyone who doesn't have the purple dye on their finger that indicates they have voted will be revealed as an opposition supporter, "which means trouble," she says.

Tsvangirai, meanwhile, is staying at the Dutch Embassy in the capital, Harare, where he took refuge earlier this week. He has not indicated what his plans are, but he told his supporters, "Don't risk your life — the people's victory may be delayed, but it won't be denied," Quist-Arcton says. He is counting on the support of neighboring African nations and the international community.

Turnout Low at Start of Zimbabwe Runoff Election

Turnout has been low Friday at the start of Zimbabwe's presidential runoff in which President Robert Mugabe is standing as the only candidate after the opposition boycotted the vote over security concerns.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the race after an intense campaign of state-sponsored violence, said the results of the election would "reflect only the fear of the people of Zimbabwe." Dozens of opposition supporters have been killed and thousands of people injured in the campaign.

Mugabe voted at a polling station in the capital, Harare, telling journalists "I feel very fit and very optimistic."

Tsvangirai told opposition members the results of a fraudulent vote would not be recognized by the world.

Mugabe defied global condemnation and calls to postpone the election, saying he would not tolerate outside intervention or political meddling in Zimbabwe's affairs — even from the African Union.

From NPR and wire reports.

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