Zimbabwe voters go to polls in election

  • 31 July 2013
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Martin reports on the Zimbabwe election

An election is under way to choose the president of the troubled African country of Zimbabwe.

Long queues formed at polling stations on Wednesday and voting was extended by five hours to help people be heard.

The current President Robert Mugabe has been in power for 33 years; he and his big rival Morgan Tsvangirai are the two front runners in the race.

Mr Mugabe has said that he will step down from power if his party Zanu-PF loses the election.

In order to win an election a candidate must get more than 50% of the votes.

But critics are concerned that today's election may not produce a fair result, with some accusing Mr Mugabe of trying to fix the result - though he denies this.

Troubled history

In the early 20th century Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia and was ruled by Britain.

But in 1980 it became an independent country and President Robert Mugabe was its first black president.

President Mugabe is a controversial figure with many in Zimbabwe seeing him as a hero; but many others both at home and abroad accuse him of being a dictator that has held power for so many years by force.

In past elections his opponents have accused him of using his power to fix the outcome.

In the last election in 2008, his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai accused Mr Mugabe's supporters of attacking his own supporters and pulled out of the race.

Since that election in 2008 President Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai have shared power in a coalition - but it's not been a friendly relationship.

The country is in better shape now than it was five years ago - when the economy was so bad that you needed a fistful of banknotes just to buy a loaf of bread.