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On Eve Of Elections, Zimbabwe Security Forces Threaten Crackdown

Zimbabwe's defense and security forces commanders warned Friday that they were ready to crack down on post-election demonstrations or violence and warned voters to go home and stay indoors after they cast their ballots on Saturday.

The statement appeared to be a response to a call by presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change for the electorate to remain at polling places after casting their votes in order to prevent official rigging.

The commanders of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, army, air force, police, prisons and the secret service called a joint news conference Friday in Harare.

They said security forces were on high alert to thwart disturbances. Reports from around the country said heavily armed soldiers were patrolling the major cities ready to crush post-election protests as vowed by President Robert Mugabe.

Political analyst John Makumbe said the government has mobilized the security forces to intimidate the electorate, adding that it is the right of voters to remain at polling stations to ensure vote-counting takes place normally and await the outcome.

Security Secretary Giles Mutsekwa of Tsvangirai's MDC grouping told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the security chiefs have become in effect political commissars of Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

The situation in the country remains tense with hours to go before the polls opened.

The three main presidential candidates made last minute stops to urge their supporters to go to the polls on Saturday.

President Mugabe addressed a rally in Harare. Rival independent candidate Simba Makoni was greeting voters on the streets of Harare. Tsvangirai was in Goromonzi, in Mashonaland East, and later in Hatcliff, a high-density Harare suburb.

The opposition charges that President Mugabe intends to rig the elections then set the army and police to crush post-election dissent. Tsvangirai and Makoni met on Thursday to discuss what they both called an official rigging campaign.

Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party found 35 bogus polling stations in Mashonaland Central Province, adding that his party has not threatened Kenyan-style post-election violence as Harare claims.

Reporter Zulu also reached independent candidate Makoni to ask what concerns he had on the eve of the hard-fought national election.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...