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Low Turnout Reported in Zimbabwe Runoff


Witnesses are reporting low voter turnout in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe is the only candidate taking part in Friday's controversial presidential runoff.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the race earlier this week, saying violence against his supporters made the vote impossible. At a news conference in the capital, Harare Friday, he denounced the runoff as an "exercise in mass intimidation."

Earlier, he urged supporters to boycott the poll but said they should vote if their lives were in danger.

Witnesses say turnout has been strong at two Harare polling stations, Mbare and Harare South, but that other stations have seen only a trickle of voters. Many residents say ruling party militia have threatened them with harm if they do not vote.

President Mugabe cast his ballot Friday in the Highfields section of Harare. He told 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.

Mr. 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.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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