Mugabe backs opposition on eve of election

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While Mugabe, who has largely remained quiet in his Harare home since leaving power, is speaking of the past, Zimbabweans are already impatient for the future - and Monday's vote.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has emerged to address the nation hours before Monday's historic election, declaring: 'I will not vote for those who have illegally taken power'.

"We have had, since November, an environment in our country which is far from being free, even politically, let alone constitutional and legal", Mugabe said.

"I can not vote for those who have tormented me".

"I will make my choice among the other 22 presidential candidates", he said.

Following the subsequent death of long term opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai in February this year, his party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) fronted young and vibrant politician Nelson Chamisa as the party's candidate.

Zimbabwe's military generals shocked the world previous year when they seized control and ushered Mr Mnangagwa to power after Mr Mugabe allegedly tried to position his wife Grace, 53, to be his successor.

Mugabe, one of the last "Big Men" of African politics, still looms large over Zimbabwean politics and he may yet influence the first vote without his name on the ballot paper since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe denied reports that he had assisted the MDC's campaign, saying he had never met Chamisa. Mugabe said: "What is there, is just Chamisa".

"I was sacked from the party I founded, ZANU-PF", he said.

Mnangagwa, 75, who promises a fresh start for the country, is the front-runner with the advantage of covert military support, a loyal state media and a ruling party that controls government resources.

Elections during Mugabe's authoritarian rule were often marred by fraud and violence, and this year's campaign has been dominated by accusations that the vote would also be rigged.

Mr Mugabe added that, since he was forced from office a year ago, "the people of Zimbabwe have not been free".

The latest polls suggest that a run-off between the main opposition leader Chamisa and Zanu PF's Emmerson Mnangagwa is a serious possibility.

They will be voting in presidential, parliamentary and local elections.