(HARARE, Zimbabwe) — Voters in Zimbabwe turned out to vote Saturday for a new constitution that is being backed by both political parties.
The new constitution includes measures to protect free expression and reduces the powers of the president, among other reforms considered to be pro-democracy.
Zimbabwe has been entrenched in crisis since the 2008 election, which saw former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai win the most votes, but refuse to participate in a runoff due to violence and accusations of vote-rigging on the part of the longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, 89, has been in power for over 25 years, and according to USA Today, the four most recent elections have been marred by violence. While the proposed constitution would limit his powers to some extent, critics say it doesn’t quite do enough.
Additionally, critics say that because the voting date was not announced until about one month ago, the citizens have not had sufficient time to read and understand the 170-page document, according to the New York Times.
The main faction of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is urging its supporters to vote “yes” Saturday, calling the proposed constitution the best compromise that could be achieved at this point.
According to the Times, the results of the vote are expected by Friday. Citizens hope that if passed, the new constitution will be a step towards peace and and towards putting Zimbabwe, once among the most stable nations in Africa, back on a path to prosperity
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss and Joe Sutton, CNN
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN