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Voting Ends in Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans went to the polls Saturday to choose a president, parliament and local councils. The balloting was mostly peaceful although police said a bomb went off at the home of a ruling party parliamentary candidate in the city of Bulawayo. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

Zimbabweans began lining up outside polling stations before dawn Saturday, hoping to cast their ballots early. The elections were seen as a choice between keeping in power the government of President Robert Mugabe, which has ruled since independence 28 years ago, and regime change advocated by two opposition candidates, Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni.

Nearly six million people were registered to vote at one of the more than 9,000 polling stations. They were to choose a president, a national assembly, a newly created senate and local councils.

Opposition candidate Tsvangirai told reporters after casting his ballot that he is confident of success.

"The people's victory is assured in spite of the regime's attempt to subvert the people's will through other fraudulent activities," he said.

Opposition leaders and pro-democracy groups have expressed concern over what they said were irregularities that could be used to rig the vote. They said they had evidence that voter registration lists had been inflated and that 50 percent more ballot papers had been printed than registered voters.
And they said that the police were allowed inside polling booths.

However, Mr. Mugabe dismissed these allegations as he voted.

"We don't rig elections," he said. "We have that sense of honesty. I cannot sleep with my conscience if I have cheated on elections. Why should I cheat? The people are there supporting us."

The voting was mostly peaceful, but soldiers and police put on a show of force patrolling the capital,
Harare, in a convoy of armored personnel carriers and water cannon trucks.

In the city of Bulawayo, a bomb went off at the home of a ruling party parliamentary candidate, Judith Mkwanda. No injuries were reported.

Zimbabwe police Chief Augustine Chihuri warned against any violence.

"All the defense and security forces of Zimbabwe are on full alert from now onwards covering the election period and beyond," he said.

The winner of the presidential election must receive 51 percent of votes cast. Otherwise, he must stand against the second-placed candidate in a run-off election within three weeks.