Mugabe pledges free, fair vote in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (centre) greets his supporters alongside his wife Grace after his address at a rally in Harare on July 28, 2013. President Robert Mugabe on Sunday made his final call for peaceful voting as he vowed that the up
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (centre) greets his supporters alongside his wife Grace after his address at a rally in Harare on July 28, 2013. President Robert Mugabe on Sunday made his final call for peaceful voting as he vowed that the upcoming election will be free and fair. -- PHOTO: AFP

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Sunday made his final call for peaceful voting as he vowed that the upcoming election will be free and fair.

"Vote, vote, vote in peace, peace peace, peace. We want peace," Mr Mugabe told around 40,000 supporters at his final rally at the National Sports Stadium in the capital Harare.

Mr Mugabe was pleased major incidents of violence were absent in campaigning days before the elections, unlike the last voting in 2008.

"It's going to be free and fair. We are not forcing anyone to vote this way or that way," he told reporters after the rally.

Zimbabweans vote for a new president and parliament on Wednesday, four years after Mr Mugabe, who has ruled for 33 years, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were forced to share power.

The 89-year-old Mr Mugabe warned against foreign influence in resolving the political conflict, citing the fallout after uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

"See what is happening in Egypt. They were fooled and advised to remove their leaders," he 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," he added.

Relations between Mr Mugabe and Western nations remain tense following international sanctions over violence against opposition members in the 2008 elections.

Mr Tsvangirai won most votes in the first round then, but pulled out of a run-off after 200 opposition members were killed.

The pair formed a unity government a year later.

Mr Mugabe spoke standing for nearly two hours despite his advanced age, after criss-crossing the country and addressing ten rallies in three weeks.

The July 31 vote will be his seventh electoral race.

He answered a categoric "yes" to questions if he would stand again for elections in 2018.

Meanwhile a popular Christian Apostolic sect earlier on Sunday declared him lifetime president of Zimbabwe.