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Zimbabwe Parliamentary By-Elections Flawed, say Observers - 2003-03-30


Diplomats observing parliamentary by-elections in two districts near Zimbabwe's capital say they have observed gross irregularities. Ruling-party youths patrolled near polling booths in open trucks.

Western diplomats and several from African countries said the atmosphere at the by-elections was tense and intimidating. One diplomat who was forced by a mob to leave his observation post, called the elections a farce.

By mid-day the number of people who cast their votes was much lower than had been expected.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said many people were too frightened to vote in the Highfield and Kuwadzana constituencies.

Ruling party officials were not available for comment, but the government-controlled newspaper, The Sunday Mail, said there was a massive turnout of voters.

The two seats were won with huge majorities by the opposition in general elections in 2000, along with all others in the Harare area. The seats became vacant with the death of one opposition member of parliament, and the expulsion of another from the party for insubordination.

There were many reports both from opposition voters and from diplomats of threatening behavior from increasingly drunken youths loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF party.

ZANU-PF said it was determined to win the by-elections to increase its urban representation in parliament. Results will be announced Monday.