Q&A: Zimbabwe's tense election
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential election between incumbent Robert Mugabe and opposition Morgan Tsvangirai is the most controversial and challenging one since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980.
CNN's Jeff Koinange describes the scene from Bulawayo, the country's second largest city, 420 kilometres south of Harare.
CNN: What issues was the election fought on?
Koinange: There are several issues voters will be concentrated on. Economy is the most important one, as inflation and unemployment have soared since farm invasions began in early 2000. Food shortage will also be a major deciding factor, with the staple food, mealie meal, which is similar to corn meal, no longer being readily available on store shelves.
Another big concern of voters is security. There is so much intimidation and violence in Zimbabwe. People feel very unsafe and want to restore order so they can sleep at night without the fear of being attacked.
CNN: How difficult is the task of monitors sent to ensure the election is fair?
Koinange: They cannot properly cover all 21 constituencies. However, both parties, President Mugabe's ZANU-PF and opposition Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will have polling agents at every voting station to ensure ballot boxes are sealed at the end of each day and ballots have not been tampered with.
CNN: What sort of intimidation are both sides claiming?
Koinange: Human rights groups in the area have reported hired thugs have gone to potential voters' homes and beat or threatened them and their families if they did not change parties. I have met people from both parties claiming to have been beaten by the other. There have been 22 reported election-related deaths since January 1, 2002.
CNN: What is the atmosphere like on the streets?
Koinange: Local Zimbabweans are saying they expect the worse but hope for the best. They are not ruling anything out. In Bulawayo, there is quiet optimism in the streets. The MDC feel the area, which is traditionally an opposition stronghold, will win them the election. Urban areas typically support the opposition while rural areas typically support the ruling party. The military has been put on high alert.
CNN: How many voters are expected to turn out?
Koinange: There are 5.6 million people registered to vote out of 13 million. (In the parliamentary elections of 2000, 5.3 million registered and 4.5 voted.) The feeling here is voter turnout will be huge. The MDC has said a huge turnout means the election cannot be rigged. Tsvangirai expects a landslide victory. The local papers, all but one government owned, are predicting Mugabe to win by a landslide.
CNN: What will be the biggest obstacle in the election?
Koinange: A law was passed last week stating all voters should vote in their constituency (where they are from). A lot of urban people have been displaced because of the violence over the last two years. They will have a hard time getting back to those areas now, which means they will not get to vote. It is just another ploy to sway the election.
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