Just more than 10 000 polling booths opened Monday around Zimbabwe where voting for a new president began at 7 am. Picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - Just more than 10 000 polling booths opened Monday around Zimbabwe where voting for a new president began at 7 am.

Voting appears to have got off to a smooth start, with some 71 000 policemen deployed to polling stations. International observers have also fanned out across the country to witness Zimbabwe's historic elections in which long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, 94, is not on the ballot, which has 23 hopefuls.

The frontrunners are Zanu-PF and incumbent president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe at the weekend said came to power through a coup, and MDC Alliance leader 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa.

On Sunday, Mugabe irked Mnangagwa with his comments suggesting the present regime was illegal and voting for Chamisa would return Zimbabwe to constitutionality. The 94-year-old deposed president said he would not vote for his Zanu-PF party, which is now led by Mnangagwa.

The polls close at 7 pm.

African News Agency (ANA)