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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Zimbabwe's political divide deepens
MDC rally
MDC supporters are mostly young and urban
Election results in Zimbabwe have confirmed the country's urban-rural political divide.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won mayoral elections in the second city of Bulawayo, while Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF retained its parliamentary seat in the eastern constituency of Makoni West.

Zanu-PF supporters
Zanu-PF is stronger in rural areas
The MDC won by a landslide with 80% of votes cast - a similar margin to that it achieved in urban seats during the June 2000 parliamentary elections.

Last June, Zanu-PF only narrowly won Makoni West against the MDC but its margin of victory has now increased to 66%.

The seat became vacant when Defence Minister Moven Mohachi died in a car crash in May.

Beatings

Following the announcement of the Bulawayo result, there were reports of Zanu-PF supporters beating people up in the streets for having voted for the opposition.

The privately-owned Daily News says that its vendors in Bulawayo were attacked for selling a newspaper deemed to be anti-Mugabe.

Zimbabwean voters
Presidential elections are due early next year

Zimbabwe's president has never enjoyed strong support in Bulawayo, the capital of the minority ethnic Ndebeles.

In the early 1980s, thousands of Ndebeles were killed in a conflict between the forces of Mr Mugabe and supporters of his ethnic Ndebele rival Joshua Nkomo.

Reacting to the Bulawayo result, Clement Moyo of the human rights group Zimrights said: "The message is Zanu-PF is not wanted anymore."

Trade unions

But analysts say that Zanu-PF's increased share of the vote in Makoni West shows that the MDC is having difficulty making headway in rural areas.

Zimbabwe's trade union movement was instrumental in forming the MDC, explaining its strength in urban areas.

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe wants another six-year term in office

Zanu-PF has always concentrated on rural issues and areas, such as the question of redistributing farmland.

This urban-rural divide was the pattern last June.

Overall, Zanu-PF gained just 70,000 more ballots than the MDC out of the 1.5 million votes cast.

Analysts say the winner of next year's presidential elections will be the man better able to reach outside of his traditional strongholds - either Mr Mugabe in towns or MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the countryside.

See also:

27 Jun 00 | Africa
Winners and losers
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