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Sunday, November 27, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe's party wins Zimbabwe poll

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe's party wins Zimbabwe poll BBC NEWS
Mugabe's party wins Zimbabwe poll
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has won elections for a new Senate, amid low voter turnout and opposition calls for a boycott.

Partial results from Saturday's poll show Zanu-PF has already won a clear majority, securing 49 out of 66 seats.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has thanked supporters for heeding calls to boycott a "meaningless election".

BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the low turnout was largely the result of widespread voter apathy.

According to our correspondent, many Zimbabweans are disillusioned after the disputed parliamentary elections in March and see little reason for an expensive new upper house of parliament.

50 senators elected on constituency basis
Six senators appointed by president
10 traditional chiefs

Mr Tsvangirai's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), did not contest more than half of 50 directly-elected seats.

A group of opposition dissidents who chose to run won five seats in the southern town of Bulawayo.

Zanu-PF - which already controls the lower house - won all three Senate seats in the capital, where the opposition usually enjoys strong support.

Final results are expected on Monday.

Opposition divisions

The voter turnout is estimated to have been between 15 and 20%, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr Tsvangirai on Sunday said the apathy was a "vote of no confidence" in President Robert Mugabe's rule.

Mr Tsvangirai had been determined to boycott the elections.

But rivals in his party had argued that participation was key to challenging Zanu-PF and fielded 26 candidates.

Observers say divisions within the party are unlikely to be healed and that the MDC is now on its deathbed.

Mr Tsvangirai dismissed his rivals in the MDC as opportunists and said his followers in the party are set to pursue a path of non-violent mass resistance against Mr Mugabe.

'Huge cost'

The Senate will comprise 50 elected senators, six senators appointed by the president, and 10 traditional chiefs.

The government says a two-chamber parliament will strengthen democracy.

But opponents say it is an opportunity for Mr Mugabe to distribute more jobs to his loyal supporters.

The annual cost of the Senate has been put at $60m, according to the government.

Many Zimbabweans suffering acute shortages of food and fuel have questioned the "huge costs" of financing an election and a new chamber.
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