A handful of white voters has once more rebuffed appeals by Prime Minister Robert Mugabe to dump the party of white former prime minister Ian Smith.

Smith's Republican Front easily won a three-way race yesterday for a parliamentary seat reserved for whites in western Zimbabwe.

In one of the lightest turnouts ever recorded in the country, Republican Front candidate Desmond Chalmers was elected with 330 votes. An independent challenger Lawrence Bronson had 63 votes and Bill McLeod of the breakaway Democratic Party had 57.

The 450 votes represented only 13 percent of the 3,500 registered voters in the vast district that stretches from the southwestern provincial capital of Bulawayo 250 miles to the north to Victoria Falls on the Zambian border. It is estimated, however, that only about half of those on the rolls are still in the country because of white departures since the advent of black rule two years ago.

The turnout was about 50 percent two years ago in the general election for 20 reserved white seats in the 100-member Parliament. Mugabe's party holds a comfortable majority with 57 seats.

Yesterday's by-election was the first test of the sentiments of white voters since nine of the Republican Front's 20 members of Parliament quit the party last month and became independents.

They intended to distance themselves from Smith and provide a separate forum for white politicians to be able to work with Mugabe. Mugabe has refused for almost a year to see Smith, who has been critical of the government.