BY STAFF REPORTER
INDEPENDENT election watchdogs have raised concerns over the credibility of the Mutasa South and Murewa South by-election results amid fears that villagers might have been coerced to vote against their will.
Zanu PF grabbed the two constituencies that were previously held by the opposition MDC Alliance.
In total, the ruling party won nine seats out of the 28 vacant parliamentary seats while the opposition got 19 in the by-elections held on March 26.
But a preliminary statement on the by-elections released by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said verifying the Mutasa South and Murewa South poll result was difficult.
“It is not possible to verify the results for Mutasa South. While the average turnout for Mutasa South was approximately 35%, all of these polling stations had a turnout of over 50%. At the same time, over 90% of votes were cast for Zanu PF while for the constituency as a whole Zanu PF received only slightly over 50% of the vote,” the statement read.
“These are indicators of community coercion and that voters were not able to freely participate in the elections. Given that the official margin of victory was only 549 votes, this community coercion undermines the credibility of the Mutasa South election and the legitimacy of the outcome.
“For Murewa South, the average turnout was approximately 49%, but for these polling stations turnout was 60% and above. For both constituencies, the vote share for Zanu PF was over 90% – much higher than for other polling stations. This pattern calls into question where voters were able to freely participate in the process and if the results truly reflect their preferences.”
The election observers also raised concerns over the high number of assisted voters in constituencies won by the ruling Zanu PF party.
But Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Priscilla Chigumba yesterday said the elections management body was happy with the way it handled the elections.
“The commission takes great pride in the successful conclusion of the process despite spirited attempts by some detractors to cast aspersions on it,” Chigumba said in a statement.
The ERC and Zesn deployed election observers to Binga North, Chivi South, Epworth, Kwekwe Central, Murewa South and Mutasa South where sample-based observations were conducted using a statistically representative sample of polling stations.
The six constituencies were selected to provide geographic spread and to reflect the political diversity of the country.