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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Pakistan prepares to vote
Badges being sold at opposition rally
Opposition leaders have called for a boycott
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By Susannah Price
BBC correspondent in Islamabad

Last-minute preparations are underway throughout Pakistan ahead of Tuesday's referendum on whether President Pervez Musharraf should be allowed to stay in power for another five years.

The Election Commission say preparations are proceeding smoothly, and the ballot boxes are already in place.

This will be the first time a vote has been held without declaring a public holiday,

Nearly 90,000 polling stations have been set up - including inside factories and other workplaces, and at markets.

It is estimated that about 70m Pakistanis are eligible to vote.

Voting concerns

However, there are no voter lists or constituencies, and anyone who can prove their identity and age can go to any polling station.

President Musharraf at rally
President Musharraf: Little doubt he will win
Critics say those who want to vote more than once will find it easy to remove the ink mark stamped on those who have cast their ballot.

However, the authorities said that drawing up voter lists would have delayed proceedings, and they believe the method is transparent.

There appears to be little doubt that President Musharraf, who has been holding public rallies around the country, will win.

Boycott call

Opposition parties say the referendum contravenes the constitution, and the president should be chosen after October's elections by the assembly and the senate.

They have called for a boycott.

Observers say the level of support for President Musharraf, who took power in a coup two and a half years ago, will be measured by the turnout.

His Information Minister, Nisar Memon, said they would be happy if a quarter of those eligible voted.

In the last referendum held by the military ruler General Zia, it was estimated that the turnout was less than 10% percent, although the official figure was much higher.

Mr Memon said they felt confident there was overwhelming support for president Musharraf, and there would be a massive "Yes" vote.

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The opposition to General Musharraf have been allowed just one rally to vent its fury"
Mariana Babari, Diplomatic correspondent - The News
"This referendum is the beginning of the end for Musharraf"
See also:

28 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf 'ready' for another term
22 Apr 02 | South Asia
Court examines Musharraf poll
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf goes for 'Zia option'
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf poll approved
13 Mar 02 | South Asia
Musharraf warns opposition leaders
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Q&A: Pakistan referendum
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