(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

By-election "peaceful"

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has declared the by-election on Monday and Tuesday in the central Zimbabwean constituency of Gutu North as "peaceful."

The seat fell vacant following the death of vice-president Simon Muzenda, and was contested by retired air marshal Josiah Tungamirai of the ruling ZANU-PF party and Crispen Musona from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Reginald Matchaba-Hove, chairman of ZESN, said he had spent three days on the ground "and I have not noticed any intimidation or party T-shirts" in the vicinity of the polling stations.

ZESN reported on Tuesday that European Union diplomats had been denied entry to some of the voting locations. Matchaba-Hove explained that the incident had occurred at only one polling station, where the polling official in charge had not been briefed about the visit. The delegation eventually gained access.

According to political analyst Brian Raftopoulos, Gutu North is an important constituency, because it is located in Masvingo, the province with the largest electoral population in the country. The constituency in itself has 59,390 eligible voters.

"It is also an important constituency in terms of ZANU-PF politics. Whoever wins the constituency for ZANU-PF, because of the vast number it controls, will play an important role in the succession battle within ZANU-PF," Raftopoulos commented. He expected Tungamirai to win comfortably.

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