Voting has started in Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections. Hundreds of people queued up, braving early morning drizzle to make sure they would be able to cast their ballot. Campaigning has remained relatively peaceful this year, compared to previous votes in which dozens of people were killed in pre-election violence, targetted mainly at the opposition.
However, human rights groups and the opposition have warned that the election will not be fair. Many in Zimbabwe have made clear they want change after years of economic crisis – the impact of the vote will be felt well beyond the country’s borders as millions of Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring countries in search of work and money.
President Robert Mugabe is certain of victory. He was the instigator of the violent seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans, and blames the country’s economic woes on years of drought.
He has campaigned on an anti-British and anti-Western stance, accusing the West of backing the opposition. Its leader Morgan Tsvangirai says Blair has nothing to do with the election and that the state of the economy is a result of Mugabe’s own failings after 25 years in power.
Observers for the elections have been hand-picked by Mugabe – western monitors and those critical of his regime have been barred from overseeing the vote.