Zimbabweans are expected to come out in the thousands to cast votes in the country's fifth general election since independence in 1980. Some analysts say the election is not going to be free and fair.

Since independence, elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by intimidation and violence. The 2000 parliamentary and 2002 presidential votes were particularly bloody.

Numerous local and international observer groups concluded that both polls were not free and fair. Analysts say the scaled-down violence prior to today's election is the result of pressure on the government by the international community.

But Brian Raftopoulos of the University of Zimbabwe says that even though there was less overt violence during the campaign for Thursday poll, violence will still have a bearing on how people vote. "There is clearly the legacy of violence which in itself is a huge intimidatory factor in a situation like this where political violence has been used consistently even the threat of violence and the symbolic presence of it in communities can have an enormous effect on voters," he said.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo is one of those who strongly believe that the poll is going to be rigged. "These elections are already won by Zanu-PF because first of all there hasn't been transparency in the voters roll," he said. "We understand there is something like 600,000 duplicate voters, people who have registered more than once, we understand on the voters roll there are 800,000 dead voters whose names will be used by certain people. So these parliamentary elections will be rigged."

Earlier this week, Archbishop Ncube called for a peaceful uprising after the result is announced. He accused the government of trying to starve supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in his drought-stricken diocese.

His call brought a rebuke from the government and the ruling party which called him an "inveterate liar."