February 5, 2004

Zanu PF wins Gutu by-election

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF has retained the parliamentary constituency seat held by former vice president Simon Muzenda who had died last year. Retired air marshal Josiah Tungamirai of Zanu PF polled 20.699 votes against 7.291 for Crispa Musoni of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the two-day by-election which the opposition claimed was rigged. The MDC had alleged electoral fraud, saying the ruling party had included about 7.000 people from other constituencies on the Gutu North voters' roll. Some 59.390 people were eligible to vote in the Gutu by-election, but fewer than 30.000 had voted by the end of polling. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of 38 independent civic groupings, observed the polling and said voting was conducted in peace. It expressed concern, however, over vote-buying after a Zanu PF official was seen distributing the staple maize grain on the first day of polling, an "action which is tantamount to vote-buying". It also observed that a group of European Union and Norwegian diplomats were "temporarily delayed entry into a polling station". "Equally worrying", ZESN said, was the role of village heads that were seen taking down names of voters as they entered the polling stations. The MDC now holds 53 of the 150 seats in parliament. (IOL, South Africa)


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