Zimbabwe's high court has refused Friday to delay local elections this weekend in rural areas. An application to put off the voting had been made by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The court rejected the opposition's claims that the run up to the elections was unfair.

In rejecting the opposition's claim, Justice Benjamin Paradza said the matter was not urgent. "To me," he said, "it smells like a game of politics is being played, and sadly is being played in the courts of law."

The Movement for Democratic Change claims that 699 of its more than 1,400 candidates have either been barred from registering or intimidated from standing in the elections, which take place Saturday and Sunday. At stake is the election of 1,400 councilors, mostly in rural areas of the country.

Officials from the Movement for Democratic Change filed an urgent petition earlier this week to postpone the elections, saying there had been widespread intimidation of their candidates and irregularities in nomination procedures.

In its affidavits to the court, the Movement for Democratic Change said the country's electoral laws were not in line with the constitution. It said therefore, the local government elections would not be carried out within the law.

There was tension in several rural constituencies this week ahead of the elections. The ruling ZANU-PF party is guaranteed to win a majority of the seats, as more than half are uncontested.