HARARE, Zimbabwe — Soldiers took to the streets with armored cars and water cannons Friday as Zimbabwe's security chiefs warned that they were ready to confront any violence during today's crucial presidential election in this economically wrecked African nation.
The opposition urged its supporters to defend their ballots against what they have charged is a plot by the ruling party to rig the vote.
President Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old revolution leader facing the toughest challenge since he won power in 1980, told his final campaign rally that the election would show Zimbabweans' opposition to former colonizer Britain, which he accuses of supporting the opposition.
Running against Mugabe are opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 55, who narrowly lost the disputed 2002 election, and former ruling party loyalist and finance minister Simba Makoni, 58.
Preliminary election results are not expected until Monday.
Zimbabwe's security chiefs are firmly behind Mugabe, and they gathered to warn against unrest, telling reporters the armed forces were "up to the task in thwarting all threats to national security."