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Zimbabwean elections: A view from polling stations

Today Zimbabweans are heading to the polls for elections that pit President Robert Mugabe against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who has vowed to push Africa's oldest leader into retirement after 33 years in power.

Here young Zimbabweans share their experiences of casting their votes:

Julie Smith shows her finger with pink ink, showing she has cast her vote in today's Zimbabwean elections.

Julie Smith, 26, from Harare writes:

I went to vote at 9am – I didn’t want to go too early in case there was any trouble or violence, so we waited a little while before we headed out but it was peaceful and we didn’t hear of any trouble, so we went out.

I voted at my local polling station – a mobile polling station which was just a tent and three booths. I waited for about an hour in the queue which by Zimbabwe standards is quick!

There were polling officials, election monitors and police at the station – an usher at the door checked your documents and then your ID and name and address were checked on the roll – they were very strict about this.

A police officer keeps watch as Zimbabweans wait to cast their vote in Mbare township outside Harare. Credit: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The officials were helpful and the monitors were watchful – making sure you posted your ballot in the correct boxes.

They were very strict about where you stood and where you walked – two policemen were walking along the queue and collecting elderly voters and bringing them to the front of the queue.

I did notice that the monitors were being monitored! Overall I think that it was quite well-run and efficient for a tent in the middle of a supermarket carpark!

There was, however, an old man in the queue who had moved house and even though he insisted he had changed his address on the roll – his name didn’t appear and they wouldn’t let him vote – they told him he had to go back to his old constituency and vote there.

He was quite old and it was quite far away so I’m not sure if he would actually have the energy to make the second journey.

So even though they were fairly efficient – there were still issues.

Everyone’s buying champagne and putting it on ice. They are hopeful.

There is no way Morgan Tsvangirai cannot win.

Voters queue to cast their votes in Mbare on the outskirts of Harare. Credit: Facebook/Morgan Tsvangirai

Ian Smith, 23, writes:

At my polling station I didn’t see anyone being turned away – there were lots of observers and a definite police presence – they weren't aggressive but they were watchful as well.

Everyone’s details were checked stringently and they were checking your finger to make sure there was no pink ink to show you had already voted.

There was an official watching you like a hawk to make sure your ballot went in the correct box.

I wasn’t allowed to loiter and watch another person post their ballot – not sure why – I guess in case I saw his vote.

Voter queues at the polling station on the outskirts of Harare. Credit: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

I only waited half an hour but this was not normal – driving home, there were long queues around the corner. As you drove out of Harare the queues got bigger and the stations were extremely busy.

People were Facebooking and texting to say bring your own pens. Just to be sure I brought my own and I left it there for others to use.

There was definitely a low turnout of young voters – I don’t think any of my friends voted.

I got a sense that everyone was really hopeful, thinking: 'this is going to work'.

From seeing so many people turning out to vote and from the massive amount of people at the MDC rally yesterday in Freedom Square there’s no way Mugabe can rig it this time – there’s too much of a critical mass in support of MDC.

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