Johannesburg - Zimbabwe votes Monday in an election that could, if deemed credible, tilt the country toward recovery after years of economic collapse and repression under former leader Robert Mugabe.
If it is flawed and disputed, as some predict, the southern African nation could slide deeper into upheaval, AP reported.
For Zimbabwe to be welcomed back into the international fold, end painful sanctions and secure the donor funding it needs to stem chronic cash shortages, observers have to sign off on the vote as being credible.
Several elections under Mugabe were marred by intimidation, rigging and widespread violence but the consensus is the build-up to this vote has been better than before.
There have been reports of intimidation and coercion and state media are biased towards Zanu–PF. Opposition party, Nelson Chamisa's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has questioned the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
The contest pits President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor and former enforcer who now says he represents change, against Chamisa, the 40-year-old leader of an opposition targeted by violence and intimidation in the past.