HARARE, Zimbabwe - Polling stations in Zimbabwe closed on Monday after the countryâ€™s first election without former leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot, and election officers prepared to start counting.
Earlier, the main opposition leader in this southern African nation said reports of voting delays were a â€śdeliberate attemptâ€ť to undermine his supporters. The allegations by Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party, intensified concerns about management of the election and the prospect of a dispute over its outcome.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former deputy president, has promised a credible vote that he hopes will bring international legitimacy and investment. A seriously flawed process could signal more stagnation. Mugabe, 94, ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until his resignation in November, and many people are anxious for change.
After the 7 p.m. closure of one polling station, the presiding officer asked party polling agents to inspect voting booths to ensure there were no ballot papers. Then the polling agents inspected the ballot boxes, noting serial numbers on the locks.
Twelve hours earlier, long lines had formed outside many polling stations in Harare, the capital, and elsewhere. Anyone in line as of the 7 p.m. closing time could still vote, though opposition parties were concerned that their supporters could drift away if forced to wait for hours, in the open and without food or drink.
Some observers welcome Zimbabweâ€™s freer political environment but cite worries about bias in state media, a lack of transparency in ballot printing and reports of intimidation by pro-government traditional leaders who are supposed to stay neutral.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, accused of engineering flawed election wins for Mugabe in the past, has said this vote will be free and fair.