Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe says he will quit after 33 years in power if he loses the country’s election, as rivals claimed they had evidence of vote-rigging. Voters go to the polls today with heavily armed riot police deployed in potential flashpoints across the capital Harare. After a violent run-up to the last election five years ago saw then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdraw, this poll has mostly been free of bloodshed. A power-sharing agreement was established after that last failed election, an acrimonious arrangement with Mr Mugabe remaining as president and Mr Tsvangirai as prime minister. Mr Mugabe’s party is accused of doctoring the roll for this election, while prime minister Mr Tsvangirai’s finance minister is in turn being blamed for failing to release funds to allow it to be revised.
Independent observers say the roll appears to contain the names of thousands of dead people, along with many double entries. Mr Mugabe, through a series of violent and suspect elections, has ruled Zimbabwe for 33 years without interruption since it gained independence from Britain.
But the 89-year-old has denied any attempts to rig the vote, declaring: “We have done no cheating.”
He says he will step down if he loses, having been in power since Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980. “If you lose, you must surrender,” the firebrand said at a rare press conference in Harare.