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Opposition Fights Mugabe Political Changes


Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has filed papers in the country's high court challenging an amendment to the law that governs the country's electoral system. Mr. Tsvangirai says the amendment, which was backed by President Robert Mugabe, could prevent many voters from casting ballots in the presidential election next year.

As the amended law stands, Zimbaweans have to prove their residence status before they can vote. As a result, many people who were able to vote in past elections now find themselves ineligible.

Mr. Tsvangirai says the new law is unconstitutional and is asking the court to overturn it. He says all Zimbabwean citizens over the age of 18 with identity documents should have the right to vote anywhere in the country.

He has also told the court that Mr. Mugabe, his opponent in the presidential elections next March, has the power to amend voting regulations, and that is an unfair advantage.

Mr. Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is facing other difficulties besides the new electoral law. One of its members was found murdered this week. At least 35 others have been murdered in the past year. At least 200 are awaiting trial. The party's treasurer, 61 year old Fletcher Dilini-Ncube, is imprisoned on a murder charge. His lawyer says he has been refused bail even though the state's only evidence against him is from witnesses who told the court their confessions were extracted under torture.

Meanwhile, ministers from the Southern African Development Community, SADEC, have ended a meeting in Harare without making any recommendations for ending Zimbabwe's political crisis. But the ministers of the 14-nation body did say they welcomed a commitment by the Mugabe government to hold free and fair elections.

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