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Zimbabwe Opposition Challenges Electoral Laws in Court

Zimbabwe's opposition went to to the High Court this week accusing President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of violating election laws before the March 31 poll. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says its court application goes to the heart of what it says are the worst electoral laws ever.

The MDC launched an urgent application in the Harare High Court on Monday citing abuse of electoral laws rammed through parliament by the ruling Zanu PF party in December.

The application says electoral reforms including the establishment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which Mr. Mugabe claims is independent, are a sham.

It has called for all illegal structures created by the Zimbabwe Election Commission be declared null and void.

Adrian de Bourbon is representing the MDC in a series of legal challenges. He spoke to VOA before the court papers were lodged at the High Court and says the electoral logistics are more unfair than the last parliamentary election in 2000 and the disputed presidential poll two years later.

"It is going to be worse than 2000 and 2002,” he said. “At that stage there were more local and independent press and a vast array of observers which were not sufficient to prevent electoral fraud, and all the more so this time, with few observers they can do what they like."

The MDC application calls for the disbandment of what it says is an illegal authority, the National Logistics Committee, which will run elections and whose members include police commissioner Augustine Chihuri who openly supports ZANU-PF and self-confessed ruling-party supporter Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede. He was accused of massive electoral malpractice by international observers in the 2002 presidential poll.

Mr. de Bourbon says electoral procedure at polling stations is heavily weighted in favor of ZANU-PF. He says there is no independent authority for voters to immediately complain to if they find fraud or intimidation.

"We know from the courts from 2000 they have at least six months for evidence for this to come out which is unrealistic,” he added. “So for six months they can run parliament and even if the election is later found to be invalid they can say, 'Well we got caught with our fingers in cookie jar, but it is too late.' The biggest problem is that we do not have an independent elections system. It is still so weighted so heavily in favor of the government."

Mr. de Bourbon lodged another High Court application Tuesday in which he is suing President Mugabe, Zimbabwe's three electoral authorities and the Minister of Justice, accusing them of failing to comply with all but one regional electoral principle Zimbabwe agreed to last August at a summit of the Southern African Development Community.

The Zimbabwe government has not responded to the two legal challenges lodged with the High Court.