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Zimbabwe Sets up Electoral Court

The Zimbabwe government has set up an electoral court to deal with complaints arising from the election on March 31 and future elections.

Zimbabwe Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has appointed three High Court Judges to the special court.

The three are to deal with any challenges or complaints regarding elections. The establishment of the courts is part of the sweeping changes to the country's electoral law announced by the government. According to the new law, the court has up to six months to make a judgment.

The development has been welcomed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The party's Director of Elections, Remius Makuwaza, said the establishment of the special court was long overdue. He described the lack of a court of appeal as "an omission." Electoral challenges in the past did not receive any special treatment and had to wait in line with other cases before the courts.

As a result, final judgment is still awaiting in the cases of MDC members who appealed their losses to the courts in the 2000 general elections. Of the 37 challenges, only eleven have been heard so far.

The ruling Zanu-PF victories were upheld in three cases and eight results were nullified. But because the ruling party candidates appealed to the Supreme Court, they still sit in parliament less than two months before the next elections. The case filed by the MDC candidate in the 2002 presidential poll, Morgan Tsvangirai, is still to be finalized. Both elections were mired by violence and controversy, and some local and international observers concluded that they were not free and fair.

In the 2000 elections the MDC won 57 of the 120 contested seats in parliament. The party claims that if the courts had acted expeditiously and ordered re-runs they could be enjoying a parliamentary majority.