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Internal Disputes Delay Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF Election Campaign Rollout

President Robert Mugabe was scheduled to launch Zanu PF's 2005 parliamentary election campaign Saturday, but the rollout has now been delayed for a week as internal disputes over its candidates continues. Political analysts say Zanu PF is mired in its first serious internal wrangling since independence in 1980.

On February 18, all candidates contesting the March 31 general election must be confirmed by nomination courts around the country.

Zanu PF's announcement of a delay in launching its campaign, takes it to just six days before it is legally bound to have its candidates in place.

The simmering disputes within Zanu PF exploded shortly before its annual congress in December, when more than half of its district chairmen were suspended from the party.

They were allegedly considering supporting a veteran Zanu PF politician, Emmerson Mnangagwa, for vice president and the person most likely to succeed Mr. Mugabe if and when he retires. Mr. Mugabe chose a long time loyalist, Joyce Mujuru, the first woman to rise so high in Zanu PF.

Zanu PF's top leaders have prevented the party's provincial chairs from running as candidates in the election, even though the state controlled media report that some claim they have support of the majority in their areas.

Elliot Manyika, a fiery Zanu PF leader is in charge of Zanu PF's election for this year's poll. He told state controlled media that Zanu PF still has to confirm two candidates in the southern Matabeleland province before the campaign can go ahead.

Matabeleland, a mostly dry and poor part of Zimbabwe has, for decades, had a difficult relationship with Zanu PF. This is where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has considerable support.

In a rare move, the state controlled media reported Thursday's announcement by the MDC that it will drop its boycott plans anjd take part in the poll. The state's Herald newspaper even quoted MDC spokesman Paul Themba.

Out on the streets however, it seems there is little interest in the election. While most people in the city center would not agree to speak into a tape recorder, because they said there were too many policemen around, Sarah, a 37-year-old single mother of three young children commented she had not taken much notice of politics recently. She said life was hard and she was more worried about the cost of food and school fees than with the election.

She said she did not know who would win the poll, but said she did not expect any change whichever party emerged as the victor.

Independent analyst and pro democracy campaigner, Lovemore Madhuku, who is also a senior academic at the University of Zimbabwe, said Thursday the MDC would not win nearly as many seats as it did in 2000, when it came within three seats of winning a majority in the 120 seat parliament. The MDC was only nine months old when it fought its first election. Hundreds of its supporters have been murdered since then and thousands arrested, according to statistics collected by the Human Rights Forum, a coalition of non-governmental organizations in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Madhuku says many MDC structures have been broken, and he doubts whether there is enough time or freedom of movement or expression for the MDC to rebuild lost support before the end of March.