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Zimbabwe Announces Election Details, No Mention of Reforms - 2004-02-16


Zimbabwe's justice minister has, for the first time, announced some details of the next parliamentary elections, which he says will take place early next year.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the timelines for various processes such as voter registration and the setting of constituency boundaries. He did not set the date for the elections, which must be held by June.

Zimbabwe's elections are run by an electoral commission appointed by President Robert Mugabe, and there is no independent supervision of any aspect of the process.

Mr. Chinamasa, in interviews with state-controlled media, made no mention of any electoral reforms.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has frequently asked for reforms to the electoral process, in accordance with standards set by the Southern African Development Community, of which Zimbabwe is a member.

The MDC challenged the results of the 2000 parliamentary elections and 2002 presidential election, and court cases for both polls are ongoing. It charges vote rigging and political violence, among other abuses, and claims neither election was free or fair.

The office of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, in a written reply to questions from VOA, that it was asked by the ruling Zanu PF party for assistance with running the next parliamentary elections, but this request has since been withdrawn.

A senior political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, John Makumbe, says the ruling party would not allow any meaningful electoral reforms for the next parliamentary elections. He said it would be hopeless for any other party to take part in the elections unless there is a complete overhal of the Electoral Act and the administration of the process.

Mr. Makumbe said without major changes, the coming parliamentary elections will be, what he called, even more of a farce than the last ones were.

Amid the charges of massive fraud, Zanu PF narrowly won the last parliamentary elections in June 2000, nine months after the formation of the MDC, the first large opposition party to emerge since independence in 1980.