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African Observer: Zimbabweans Voted in Fear, Defaced Ballots


The head of an African Observer Mission to Zimbabwe says voter turnout was low in Friday's presidential runoff election and that many voted out of fear. VOA'S Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg, the vote count is under way in the election in which the only candidate was President Robert Mugabe.

Marwick Khumalo, the head of the Pan-African Parliament's observer mission, says many Zimbabweans voted out of fear Friday, determined to get the identifying indelible ink on their little fingers that showed they had voted.

The Associated Press reports that Khumalo said there was a great deal of intimidation for people to vote and that voters hoped the ink would protect them from "the hooligans."

He said even though Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff, many people said they voted for him anyway. Others, he said, defaced their ballot papers.

The state media reported a very high voter turnout. The Herald newspaper said that a "massive" turnout was a slap in the face for critics of the poll.

But Khumalo and other observers says the turnout was very low, such as one polling station in the second city Bulawayo, where there were 22 votes for Mr. Mugabe, 14 for Tsvangirai and 12 defaced papers.

In March, there were at least 300 votes cast in that polling station. Similar reports have come even from areas, which up until the March election, were considered traditional areas of support for Mr. Mugabe.

Late Friday the United Nations Security Council stopped short of calling the election illegitimate at the insistence of South Africa. Instead the body said conditions for free and fair elections did not exist and that it was a matter of deep regret they had been held.

Speaking at a business dinner in Johannesburg, African National Congress President Jacob Zuma argued that finding a political solution in Zimbabwe was more important that criticizing events there.

"If countries ill treat their citizens, then their citizens would do a number of things and it will impact on the neighbors and I don't think we want that situation. That's why we are calling for a political arrangement that must help solve the situation in Zimbabwe for the good of all of us," he said.

African Union Foreign Ministers meeting in Egypt ahead of Monday's summit, said international leaders should push for Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai to talk to each other.

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