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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 November 2005, 19:53 GMT
Zimbabwe elects its first senate
People queue to vote in Budiriro, Harare
The opposition predicted turnout of less than 10%
Voting has been taking place in Zimbabwe for a controversial new upper house of parliament, the Senate.

Up to 3.2 million people were eligible to vote for 50 members of the 66-seat Senate. However turnout was reported to have been low across the country.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who had called for a boycott dismissed the election as a "non-event".

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party already controls the lower house, and is expected to dominate the Senate.

Counting was due to get under way on Saturday night after the polls closed, with results expected on Monday.

Official voter turnout numbers were not immediately available, but observers put the figure at 20%, Reuters news agency reports.

Some of the 31 constituencies recorded an estimated turnout of just 12%.

Fatal split

In parts of the capital, Harare, there were reportedly larger queues at supermarkets than at nearby polling stations.

SENATE
50 senators elected on constituency basis
Six senators appointed by president
10 traditional chiefs

"It doesn't benefit us. Voting for what? For some people to get money and enjoy their lives while we are starving here?" one motorist in a fuel queue said.

A spokesman for Mr Tsvangirai said the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader predicted a turnout of less than 10%.

"As far as Mr Tsvangirai is concerned this a non-event and it goes against national sentiments. The people in this country deserve better," William Bango said.

Mr Tsvangirai had been determined to boycott the elections.

But rivals in his party had argued that participation was key to challenging Zanu-PF. They fielded 26 candidates for the election.

Observers say that divisions within the party are unlikely to be healed and that the MDC is now on its deathbed.

'Huge costs'

The Senate will comprise 50 elected senators, six senators appointed by the president, and 10 traditional chiefs.

The government says a two-chamber parliament will strengthen democracy.

But opponents say it is an opportunity for Mr Mugabe to distribute more jobs to his loyal supporters.

The annual cost of the Senate has been put at $60m, according to the government.

Many Zimbabweans suffering acute shortages of food and fuel have questioned the "huge costs" of financing an election and a new chamber.

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says voters have become deeply disillusioned with the government and with the MDC's inability to become an effective opposition.

The last elections were eight months ago when voters chose a new parliament.

Shortly after, the constitution was amended to create an upper house to the current one-chamber parliament.


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See preparations for the elections in Zimbabwe



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