Low turnout in Zimbabwe election


Most of Zimbabwe's electorate chose not to vote in yesterday's election for a Senate already packed with reserved seats for members of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party.

The average voter turn-out could end up at about 15 percent of the country's 3.2 million registered voters, observers said on Sunday.

Mugabe's Zanu-PF party began the election as a certain winner, with 35 of the 66 seats already reserved for them.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a local group that fights for free and fair elections, said most people had stayed away because they were not aware of the role of the senate.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said today the voters had vindicated his call to boycott an election that lends legitimacy to a process of entrenching the power of Mugabe and his party.

Although voters appeared to be in line with Tsvangirai's sympathies, a faction of his own party disagreed with him enough to field candidates.

MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube's splinter group fielded 26 candidates, mostly in the southwestern Matabeleland provinces. They took five seats in the Bulawayo metropolitan province.

Tsvangirai said members who participated in Saturday's poll remained expelled from the party.

Sunday's results showed that ZANU-PF had won two of the five seats in Harare province, a traditional opposition stronghold. More results are expected throughout the day.

The 81-year-old Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe uninterrupted for 25 years, and many of his critics blame his controversial policies for ruining one of Africa's most promising economies.

Mugabe denies the charge and says he is pursuing nationalistic policies meant to benefit Zimbabwe's black majority who suffered during British colonial rule.