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Citizens of Zimbabwe and Japan exercised their democratic rights this past weekend. Arguably, the vote in Zimbabwe is its most important election in the past 20 years. The opposition MDC party looks poised to make significant gains in the Parliament.

In power for most of the past 45 years, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party felt its grip slipping, too. It will likely stay in power thanks to coalition partners.

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Next weekend, it will be Mexico's turn to test history. And citizens are balking at vote-buying and coercion.

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

THE GAIJIN VOTE: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher was covering her first Japanese election on Sunday. And she got curious about the voting booths. "How private were they?" she wondered. So she entered a voting line for a closer look. "I was at the back of the line, but the officials spotted me right away," says Ilene. "They came over and politely asked if I had voting rights, which I don't. They asked me to leave." And the booths? No curtains. "But no one looks at what their neighbor's doing - that would be considered too impolite," says Ilene. Her interpreter explained later that it's rare for foreigners to become citizens. In fact, the only foreigners she knew that had gained Japanese citizenship were sumo wrestlers from the US. And voting officials weren't likely to mistake Ilene for a sumo wrestler.

GETTING GABRIEL'S VOTE: Mexico's presidential race includes six candidates. But only two - Francisco Labastida and Vicente Fox, have a real shot at winning. The Monitor's Howard LaFranchi says his five-year-old son Gabriel - who is the only Mexican-born and thus has more say in the matter than anyone else in the family - had no trouble deciding who he's for. "I'm for Fox," Gabriel piped up recently. "He has the name of an animal I like."

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