Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has consolidated its grip in urban areas after winning the majority of executive mayoral posts and local councils in weekend elections.
The polls were marred by a low voter turn-out, while the opposition complained of intimidation and violence, including cases of fire bombings against members' homes. One victim was the MDC chairman in the northern farming town of Karoi, Biggie Haurobi, whose house was set alight by unknown assailants on the eve of voting.
In two key parliamentary by-elections, also over the weekend, the MDC won Harare Central in the capital, while results for the Makonde rural constituency in the centre of the country had not been released by late Monday evening.
In Harare Central, the MDC candidate polled 2,707 to ZANU-PF's 1,304 votes.
The countrywide municipal elections involved 222 council wards in 21 towns and cities, with seven mayoral posts up for grabs.
In the resort town of Kariba, in President Robert Mugabe's home province of Mashonaland West, the MDC's mayoral candidate John Rolland Houghton beat his ZANU-PF rival Petros Maya.
The MDC also won executive mayoral posts in Victoria Falls in Matabeleland North, and Gwanda, the capital of Matabeleland South province. The opposition party was also expected to romp to victory in the Midlands capital of Gweru, and the city of Mutare in Manicaland province.
The MDC already has executive mayors in Harare, the second largest city Bulawayo, Masvingo, and the satellite town of Chitungwiza, 35 km from Harare.
The MDC also won ward council elections in Bulawayo, where it white-washed the ruling party by winning in all the 29 wards.
It also won the ward elections in Hwange in the west and Masvingo in the south.
But the ruling party consolidated its power base in Mashonaland West, winning in Norton and Kadoma. It took Kwekwe town in the Midlands province where it won the mayoral post and ward elections. In Shurugwi, in the centre of the country, it won all 13 wards.
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