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Polls Close After Controversial Zimbabwe Runoff

Polls Close After Controversial Zimbabwe Runoff

Polls have closed in Zimbabwe, after a presidential runoff widely dismissed as a charade to keep President Robert Mugabe in power.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the poll earlier this week, saying violence against his supporters made the election impossible.

In an interview Friday with VOA English to Africa, he denounced the runoff as a "one-man race whose outcome is already known."

Many residents of the capital, Harare, said ruling party militia threatened them with harm if they did not vote. Witnesses say turnout was strong at two Harare polling stations, Mbare and Harare South, but that other stations saw only a trickle of voters.

In an e-mail early Friday, Tsvangirai had urged supporters to boycott the election but said they should vote if their lives were in danger.

President Mugabe cast his ballot Friday in Harare, telling reporters he felt "optimistic." The 84-year-old president rejected calls from the West and fellow African leaders to postpone the election because of the violence.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says 86 of its supporters have been killed and thousands more injured in what it calls a campaign of intimidation by the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Human rights groups and U.S. ambassador James McGee have reported similar findings of ruling party violence.

Mr. Mugabe and his allies reject the accusations and blame the MDC for the violence.

Tsvangirai defeated Mr. Mugabe in the first round of elections March 29. However, official results showed him falling just short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won independence from Britain in 1980.

ENDS

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