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Tsvangirai urges Zimbabweans to vote for 'better tomorrow'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Just two days before Zimbabweans go to the polls, Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday urged his fellow countrymen to choose "a better tomorrow" and make him Zimbabwe's next president.

Speaking to 30,000 supporters in Harare's "Freedom Square", a stone's throw from President Robert Mugabe's party headquarters, Tsvangirai said Wednesday's vote was the most important since independence in 1980.

"It's a choice between a bleak yesterday and a better tomorrow, between revival and regression, between authoritarianism and democratic governance," said the 61-year-old who once again is challenging Mugabe, who has ruled for 33 years.

"The choice is not just political, but a generational choice."

Tsvangirai won the first round of voting in 2008, but pulled out of a run-off because around 200 of his supporters were killed.

On Monday he and his followers gathered on the same patch of land where they were brutally dispersed by Mugabe's supporters five years ago.

"We gathered at this place in 2008, and we have gathered again today to send a clear message to the regime that we are tired of tyrannical rule," said supporter Cleto Manjova.

Tsvangirai supporters wore red clothes and waved red cards chanting "game over" at Mugabe.

On Sunday Mugabe held his own final campaign rally, with a call for peaceful voting and a promise that the election would be free and fair.

"We are not forcing anyone to vote this way or that way," he said.

Many doubt the sincerity of that pledge.

The run-up to Wednesday's vote has not seen the levels of violence associated with previous Zimbabwean elections, but independent observers say there is little chance of a free vote.

"Conditions for a free and fair vote do not exist," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in an election report Monday.

"The voters roll is a shambles, security forces unreformed and the media grossly imbalanced.

"A return to protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, is likely."

But Justice Rita Makarau, head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, said the commission was ready for the vote on Wednesday, despite fears of a repeat of the chaos that marred early voting held a fortnight ago for security and election officers.

Then thousands failed to vote due to shortages of ballot papers and ink.

Makarau sought to reassure voters saying the commission had printed more than enough ballot papers.

"Yes, we are ready for the elections on 31 July ...yes, we will have free and fair elections," Makarau told journalists.

Tsvangirai complained Monday that, with just two days before the vote, he was yet to see a list of eligible voters.

In June, the Research and Advocacy Unit -- an NGO -- reported the existing roll included one million dead voters or people who have emigrated, as well as over 100,000 people aged over 100 years old.

The MDC has alleged these "ghost voters" tend to back Mugabe in official tallies.

Tsvangirai also complained that his chief elections officer was in police custody. Morgan Komichi was arrested Sunday after he reported the dumping of ballot papers from the early voting.

He also questioned whether the electoral commission was in league with Mugabe.

"It is clear that ZEC is either complicit or has abdicated its responsibilities," in which case it must "resign," said Tsvangirai.

During the campaign Mugabe has repeated his claim to enrich poor black Zimbabweans, promising further indigenisation of white and foreign-owned assets.

He has also threatened to behead homosexuals, painted his rival as a foreign stooge and warned Zimbabweans against change, citing the fallout after uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

"See what is happening in Egypt. They were fooled and advised to remove their leaders," Mugabe, 89, told supporters in the local Shona language.

Egyptians are "fighting each other" and the West "are observers now as if they don't know the mischief they caused".

Tsvangirai has promised to create one million jobs and woo back foreign investors who fled the country amid Mugabe's indigenisation drive and ensuing hyper-inflation.

He has also made hay out of Mugabe's age and 33-year spell in office.

"Today's problems can't be solved by yesterday's people", he told supporters Monday.

"I want Mugabe to enjoy his retirement in peace and quiet," hinting that Mugabe may be granted immunity if he relinquishes power.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130729/tsvangirai-urges-zimbabweans-vote-better-tomorrow