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Government Not Following Election Laws, Says Zimbabwe Opposition - 2002-09-24

The leading opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change, filed court papers to postpone local elections scheduled for this weekend. The MDC says the government of President Robert Mugabe is not abiding by its own election laws.

The MDC says the government has failed to comply with the constitution and the Electoral Act. The party asked the high court to hear its case on an urgent basis.

The state is likely to oppose the MDC's application.

MDC officials say even though the local elections are only days away, they still do not have a copy of the list of registered voters, which they say is required by the Electoral Act.

The opposition also says more than half its candidates in the local elections have been refused permission to register for the poll.

Local elections are held mainly in villages and rural areas of the country, where about 70 percent of Zimbabweans live. About 1,400 councilors will be elected. Because so many opposition candidates are missing from the ballot, the ruling Zanu-PF will likely gain control of nearly all rural areas.

This is the first time that the MDC has tried to participate in local elections since its formation three years ago. MDC officials say, away from cities and the media, their party is even more vulnerable to intimidation by ruling party supporters.

They say many of their candidates have fled their home areas because of threats of violence. They also say one of their candidates was abducted in southeastern Zimbabwe last week and is still missing.

The ruling party routinely denies MDC allegations of harassment.