Zimbabwe's President Mugabe predicts '90% poll victory'

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Media captionRobert Mugabe: "Go into that battle well armed"

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched his party's campaign for the 31 July general elections, predicting a 90% victory for Zanu-PF.

But the 89-year-old leader warned it was a "do-or-die struggle" and to prepare for a "battle for survival".

The election will mark the end of a coalition government, which has stabilised the country's economy.

He is standing for president against his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been serving as prime minister.

The 61-year-old leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) pulled out of the second round of the 2008 presidential election, accusing the security forces and pro-Mugabe militias of attacking his supporters around the country.

He had won the most votes in the first round but, according to official results, not enough to win outright.

After Mr Mugabe went ahead with the run-off, winning with 85% of votes cast, regional mediators intervened to organise the power-sharing agreement.

'No violence'

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by both parties to delay elections set for 31 July for a couple of weeks.

Critics says key security, media and electoral reforms demanded by regional mediators, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), have yet to be implemented.

The MDC also warned last month that the voters' roll was in a "shambles" and the vote could be rigged.

"Let it be known that we are in Sadc voluntarily; if Sadc decides to do stupid things we can move out and withdraw from Sadc," Mr Mugabe told a crowd of between 5,000 and 7,000 party supporters at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfields, a suburb of the capital, Harare.

Image caption Thousands of the party faithful gathered for Zanu-PF's first campaign rally ahead of the 31 July polls.
Image caption President Robert Mugabe attended the rally in Highfields, a suburb of Harare, along with his wife Grace.
Image caption Gospel singers and musicians entertained the audience. Mr Mugabe made a speech lasting more than an hour and said the party should prepare for a "battle for survival".
Image caption Zanu-PF's election campaign slogan is "indigenise, empower, develop and create employment".
Image caption The party also wants to attract young voters in urban areas.

The BBC's Brian Hungwe in Harare says the choice of the Zimbabwe Grounds to launch the campaign was significant.

It was there that Mr Mugabe gave his first address in 1980 to a crowd of some 200,000 people after returning to Zimbabwe from Mozambique, where he had led the armed struggle against white-minority rule.

In an address that lasted well over an hour, Mr Mugabe urged the Zanu-PF faithful in 2013 to avoid the violence of five years ago.

"Let's kick our opponents with votes. But please no violence. Let's have an election without violence, without intimidation," he said.

Analysts say that the MDC has usually garnered most of its support in urban areas, but Zanu-PF has been making a concerted effort to appeal to younger voters.

Jonathan Moyo, a member of Zanu-PF's politburo, said he expected a "huge and emphatic victory this time round".

The party had "a very clear policy... on indigenisation and economic empowerment of the people of Zimbabwe", he told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme.

"There's no other party with any other programme that competes significantly or seriously with Zanu-PF's policies for the next five years," he said.

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