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Zimbabwe: No Election Invitation for Regional Parliament Body

The Zimbabwean government has not invited a regional parliament organization that concluded the country's 2002 presidential election was neither free nor fair to again monitor balloting.

The Southern African Parliamentary Forum failed to make Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge's list of organizations and countries invited to observe the March 31 Zimbabwean general election. The forum is made up of representatives of the 12 country organizations' parliaments and observes elections in member countries.

The Zimbabwean government has repeatedly said it would not invite countries and organizations it deems unfriendly to observe the poll.

The omission of the Southern Africa forum has been condemned by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The party's spokesperson for foreign affairs, Priscilla Misihairabwi, says she has written a letter of protest to the foreign minister.

In a statement to ZimOnline - an Internet e-zine (publication) - she accuses President Robert Mugabe of, in her words, "treating the election like a wedding party, where the bride and groom invite friends to come and be merry." She says the only people that are coming to observe the elections are "his friends."

The Zimbabwe Foreign Ministry spokesperson denies that the forum was left out because of its negative report in 2002.