Zimbabwe’s rural areas, once viewed as strongholds of the ruling ZANU-PF party, are backing the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), according to intial results from the March 29 poll.
The sharp move away in support for President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, is resulting in a slew of senior government members losing their parliamentary seats in such provinces as Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West – Mugabe’s home province – Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands province.
Early returns announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) late on Monday, indicated the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and ZANU-PF were tied on 19 parliamentary seats a piece. There are 210 elected parliamentary seats.
The ZEC’s announcement of the election results appears to be developing a pattern where both of the main rival parties remain tied in the number of seats they have won, although no results by late Monday had been announced from urban areas, seen as bastions of support for the MDC.
Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary general, told IRIN they had been collating their own results from polling stations and determined that “We (the MDC) have garnered more votes in rural areas than in urban areas.”
“In Manicaland province, we have won 20 out of 26 seats with most of them being rural. In Masvingo province, we claimed 15 seats out of 26. There are no variations between our own figures and those announced by ZEC. The worst case scenario for us would be a run off but we are confident that we will romp home to victory.”
George Chiweshe, a retired army officer and ZEC chairman, told journalists at a briefing in the capital Harare he was opposed to the opposition party and the media announcing unofficial results.
“I do not understand the impatience of stakeholders including journalists both foreign and local.”
Delay in results
He defended the delay in announcing the results as a consequence of the holding of combined elections.
“We are doing 210 House of Assembly constituencies, 60 senatorial constituencies in addition to more than 1,000 municipal wards plus the presidential election.
“This should all things being equal, take four days but it has taken us 48 hours. In other countries where we have observed elections, they take longer as the job requires more time,” Chiweshe said.
There were no indications late on Monday about which way the presidential ballot was heading and wether, after 28 years in office, Mugabe’s presidency would end and Tsvangirai installed as his successor.
The MDC, which went into the elections divided, has seen one sided support for Tsvangirai’s faction.
President of the pro-Senate faction, Arthur Mutambara was defeated in parliamentary elections in Chitungwiza, a dormitory town outside the capital, while his deputy, Gibson Sibanda lost in Bulawayo as did the secretary general, Welshman Ncube.