Paramilitary police deployed in a park in Zimbabwe's capital and marshals led voters to polling stations yesterday for an internationally discredited presidential runoff held in an atmosphere of intimidation.
In contrast to the excitement and hope for change that marked the first round of elections in March, a defiant President Robert Mugabe is the only candidate in this round, and the election was expected only to deepen the nation's political crisis.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the runoff after an intense campaign of state-sponsored violence, said the results of the election would "reflect only the fear of the people of Zimbabwe." Dozens of opposition supporters have been killed and thousands of people injured.
Tsvangirai's name remains on the ballot because electoral officials say his withdrawal Sunday came too late.
Mugabe, the country's ruler since independence in 1980, was expected to use violence and intimidation to get people to vote for him in the hope that a massive turnout could demonstrate he still has support and to make his inevitable victory appear credible.
About 20 paramilitary police in riot gear were stationed in a central Harare park.
In the capital's crowded Mbare suburb, lines built up at polling stations as voters arrived in groups, led by marshals who were carrying books filled with names. In one side street, names were being called and ticked off as a group of about 25 people gathered before heading to a tented polling station.
In Sharm el-Sheikh, African Union foreign ministers bickered behind closed doors on Friday over how to handle Zimbabwe as they prepared for a summit next week under the shadow of its political crisis.