Zimbabwe's chaotic early voting enters 2nd day

Associated Press
Zimbabwean police officers wait in a queue to cast their votes, at a polling station in Harare, Monday, July, 15, 2013. Officials of Zimbabwe's election commission said Sunday early voting started for police and security personnel who will be on duty during the nation's crucial elections on July 31. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Police, soldiers and officials stood in line to vote across Zimbabwe for a second day on Monday after polling the day before was mired in chaos with ballot papers, ballot boxes and other materials not delivered in time.

Special voting for about 80,000 government personnel, who will be on duty during the July 31 crucial national elections, was scheduled to close after dusk, but could be extended to Tuesday if voters already unable to cast their ballots, officials said.

On Sunday, voting did not take place at some of the 210 polling stations because printing of election papers was delayed, electoral commission deputy chair Joyce Kazembe said.

The commission, however, "does not foresee a repeat of delays" for the full national elections starting in just over two weeks, Kazembe said Monday.

More than 9,000 voting stations are planned for full elections.

At one Harare voting post on Monday, police officers waiting in line jostled impatiently. Earlier, a senior officer had addressed a throng of rowdy police who broke a window at a suburban meeting hall used for voting.

"We do admit we didn't foresee the difficulties" that became apparent in the early vote, Kazembe said. "We underestimated the task, we had not anticipated the magnitude of the process."

The nation's long-time President Robert Mugabe set the national polls for July 31 arguing he was obeying a court ruling ordering him to call for early elections.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, former opposition leader and Mugabe's partner in a coalition formed after violent and disputed elections in 2008 had appealed against holding early polls.

Tsvangirai wanted the polls delayed to give the nation enough time for preparations and the amendments to electoral laws that critics say have led to vote-rigging in the past.

Tsvangirai, 61 will face Mugabe, 89, in the July polls along with three other minor candidates vying for presidential votes.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party, in charge of the finance ministry and government payroll, says the government has just over 40,000 police officers on the official payroll against the 69,000 whom the election commission says have applied for the early vote.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba said Saturday the other 30,000 police force members are auxiliaries, reservists and part-timers.

Lawyers for Tsvangirai's party filed a court appeal challenging the authenticity of the security services numbers in the Harare High Court on Monday, alleging a ploy to inflate votes in favor of Mugabe.

A court hearing is scheduled Wednesday but the court is not expected to declare votes invalid after special voting has closed.

Tsvangirai's party said the state's electoral body had "failed the test" to organize just 210 centers for special voting.

"How will they manage thousands of polling stations on July 31?" it said. "It would be a travesty of justice and a violation of people's rights if they fail to correct these anomalies in time for people to vote."

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