Zimbabwe’s elections could mark an end to the power-sharing government that emerged after bloodshed at the polls in 2008 and was seen as untenable from the outset.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, is making his third attempt to unseat the long-time president, Robert Mugabe, who heads the Zanu-PF party.
The two are among five presidential candidates.
Some 6.4 million people are registered to cast their ballots for a new parliament and president at 9,670 polling stations across the Southern African country.
Mugabe drew international condemnation and sanctions from the West over the violence and intimidation during the last presidential poll.
Some 200 supporters of the-then rising opposition MDC were killed. Hundreds more were detained, with some allegedly tortured.
Former black liberation hero Mugabe had already earned the status of pariah for stripping whites of their farms to the detriment of the economy.
After months of post-election wrangling and at the behest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government – one that would remain too fragile to pull Zimbabwe out of its economic misery.
“The coalition has failed. Our president cannot work with Tsvangirai. The West will be ashamed when their puppet loses,” one Zanu-PF supporter, who identified himself only as Comrade Tongai, said.