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Zimbabwe / Elections - 2002-03-11


Zimbabwean police fired teargas in parts of the capital Harare today to disperse frustrated crowds who could not cast their vote by the end of the third day of voting. A VOA reporter in Harare says the Zimbabwe Police Commissioner told him hundreds of people believed to be opposition supporters were arrested, for allegedly trying to vote twice. The polls closed at 7 p.m. local time.

In the less affluent, high density suburbs, where the bulk of Harare residents live, police in riot gear were in running battles with thousands of potential voters, mostly youths, who refused to go home before casting their votes.

The most volatile areas are Budiriro, Kuwadzana and Glen View, all southwest of Harare's central business district. Police fired teargas at the demonstrating youths, some of whom vowed to continue protesting. Among dozens of people rounded up by police during the rioting is a Member of Parliament for the main opposition party, the MDC, Gilbert Shoko. Voting in the capital Harare and its dormitory town Chitungwiza was extended through today -- Monday. Yesterday the MDC, the Movement for Democratic Change, appealed to the High Court of Zimbabwe for an extension. High Court Judge Ben Hlatshwayo was flown around Harare and Chitungwiza in an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter; he then ruled that the voting period be extended by one day.

The MDC applied for the extension believing that most of the tens of thousands of the voters who had failed to vote in Zimbabwe's metropolis were its supporters. The MDC has a strong support base in most of Zimbabwe's urban areas, while Zanu-PF strongholds are the rural areas. But despite the extension, there were tens of thousands of voters who had still not cast their vote by the time voting ended at 7 p.m. Monday night.

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