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Opposition May Boycott Zimbabwe's 2005 Parliamentary Elections - 2004-03-09

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Tuesday his Movement for Democratic Change might not run in the 2005 parliamentary elections unless the current electoral law is overhauled.

Mr. Tsvangirai said the MDC's leadership has decided the party may stay away from the 2005 parliamentary elections unless there is internationally accepted reform of the electoral process. He said the level of violence against his party was increasing, and would get worse as the elections drew closer.

A new study by the Johannesburg-based Zimbabwe Institute, confirms Mr. Tsvangirai's concern, saying 60 percent of opposition legislators elected in 2000 have been arrested, although fewer than a handful have ever been tried.

The report was compiled by Zimbabwe and Canadian lawyers from interviews, human rights reports and legal documents. It says a majority of opposition legislators and their families have been attacked and most are no longer able to live with their families. Half the MP's have had their property, homes, vehicles and businesses vandalized or destroyed.

Most of the parliamentarians say the perpetrators were members of the Zimbabwe security forces.

Professor John Stremlau, head of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says the opposition members of parliament may be the most persecuted legislators in the world among countries considering themselves as democracies.

In his words, this is a new and diabolical phenomenon, a virulent type of political control which is more insidious than the militarization, or coup d'etat we have seen in the past. Zimbabwe's justice minister Patrick Chinamasa could not be reached for comment.