IT has the makings of one of the most tightly contested elections in the area with over 300 candidates determined to win one of the 33 council seats in the Nquthu by- election on Wednesday 24 May.There are 325 candidates, representing 14 political parties. Representatives of all 14 and independent candidates signed a code of conduct last Thursday committing themselves to a free and fair election and peaceful and fair campaigning.IEC head in KZN, Mawethu Mosery, said they were working with all political parties, the police and relevant government officials to ensure that the upcoming elections were hassle free and fair. "I am happy to report that we are co-operating with all relevant stakeholders. We are looking forward to holding these by-elections in an atmosphere free of intimidation and violence of any sort," he said after the signing of the Code of Conduct by political parties and candidates.KZN police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said: "We have deployed our experienced officers to the area. We are doing this because we want to assure the local population and political parties that they are free to conduct their campaigns.“The recent stabbing of ANC activist Siphamandla Ngobese, on his way home from an address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was not regarded as politically motivated,” Zwane saidAll major political parties have stepped up their campaigns in Nquthu and posters bearing the faces of candidates can be seen in all villages and in Nquthu town.Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube dissolved the Nquthu local council in terms of section 139 (1)(c) of the Constitution because the August local government councillors had failed to agree to elect officer bearers and several court cases were lodged.The voters' roll for the election stands at 81 159 registered - this is over 4 000 more than those registered for the August elections.With just two weeks to go candidates' posters pepper the voting district and campaigning is almost non-stop.