Zimbabwe awaits results as election officials count ballots

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Zimbabweans cast their ballots on July 30 in the country's first election since authoritarian leader Mugabe, 94, was ousted a year ago, with concerns over fraud and the likelihood of a disputed result clouding voting day.

If Mnangagwa does not take the vote - it will be the first time in Zimbabwe's 38-year history that the political party Zanu-PF will not be in power.

Long lines formed outside many polling stations in Harare, the capital, and elsewhere.

"So, I'm calling on all young people in the nation of Zimbabwe and in the diaspora and whatever you are, come, let's make history in the nation of Zimbabwe". "This is my future", said Emerina Akenda, a first-time voter.

"We need peace and we need everyone to be comfortable to go out and exercise their right to vote without fear", said Priscilla Chigumba, a judge who chairs the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

The front-runners for the presidency are the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, Mugabe's one-time deputy and successor, and his main rival Nelson Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and church pastor who heads the Movement for Democratic Change.

"I can not vote for those who have tormented me", Mugabe said, in a reference to Mnangagwa, who took office with the military's support.

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Piercing whistles and cheers greeted Chamisa as he voted outside Harare, who declared on Twitter that "minus the ballot mischief".

"Victory is certain, the people have spoken", Mr Chamisa said after casting his ballot in Harare as a cheering crowd chanted: "President!"

The run-up to Monday's vote was largely peaceful compared to past elections under Mugabe, where the ruling party and war veterans were accused of violence against opponents. He urged the country to remain peaceful during the landmark vote.

He added that: "We had that freedom after 1980".

Disgraced former President Mugabe threw his weight - which still holds some clout amongst staunch supporters - behind Mr Chamisa on Sunday. "He can engage me anytime".

A record of more than 20 presidential candidates and almost 130 political parties were participating. Zimbabwe votes Monday in an election that could, if deemed credible, tilt the country toward recovery after years of economic collapse and repression under Mugabe.

"This is a critical moment in Zimbabwe's democratic journey", said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president and a leader of one of the global observer missions.

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There were concerns in urban areas, which are opposition strongholds, that long queues were moving too slowly, raising fears of a repeat of the 2002 disputed elections that saw polling stations closing before thousands of people could vote.

Mr Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe confidante, has tried to recast himself as a voice for reform, inviting back dozens of election observers and pledging a free and fair vote.

The next ruler will have to administer an economy in meltdown after two decades of misrule and corruption under Mugabe, who the ruling party forced to resign in November, and a broke Treasury that's unable to service its loans or take out new ones.

Global observers from the European Union, the United States and the Commonwealth are watching polling stations across the country.

Even though it was a public holiday, some government offices were open so that those who had lost identity cards could get replacements and then cast their ballots.

Important elections have been taking place in Zimbabwe in southern Africa.

Several global observers said the voting process had been slow at some stations, but it did not appear to them to be intentional.

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