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By-Elections Plagued by Irregularities, Claim Observers - 2003-03-31


The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, ZESN, has declared the just-ended parliamentary by-elections in both Highfield and Kuwadzana constituencies as not meeting the criteria of free and fair elections.

The 36 member coalition of non-governmental organizations cites a number of irregularities.

Ellen Kandororo, the ZESN Information Officer says her organization observed and documented serious anomalies and says they were visible even before the elections began.

She says on the voting days, other irregularities were also noticed and says some election observers were physically harmed in the course of their duties. The perpetrators, she says, claimed to be members of the ruling party.

The Election Support Network says it was forced to withdraw its observers from Kuwadzana constituency for security reasons. Kandororo says the behavior of the police forced her group to make the move.

Preliminary figures obtained by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network indicate that about 30 thousand people cast their votes in each of the two constituencies.

The coalition says this is lower than in the last parliamentary elections when over forty thousand people voted. The Kandororo says this may be due to the tension and violence which characterized the run-up to the polls.

The ruling ZANU-PF has not responded to the allegations made by ZESN. But in recent days, the government has blamed the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change for recent violence in the country.