Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has filed a protest with electoral authorities claiming local officials are denying accreditation to the opposition party's poll monitors. The MDC says this is illegal and will hamper the party's ability to assure the proper course of Thursday's parliamentary elections.

MDC legal spokesman David Coltart says he is outraged by reports coming from around the country that the party monitors are being denied accreditation by local polling officials even though MDC has complied with the law requiring the party to publish the names of the monitors in newspapers. He says the monitors are being asked to bring proof that their names are on the published list even though no such requirement was written into the election law.

The MDC had published a list of 24,000 monitors to observe polling inside and outside the polling places. Each party is by law allowed one monitor inside and one outside each polling station.

In a lawsuit challenging the legality of the 2002 presidential elections, the MDC alleges four out of 10 of its monitors were either beaten or chased away and some said they were too scared to show up for duty. President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party won the election by 15 percent, and a court case challenging the result is yet to be heard by the High Court.

MDC's Mr. Coltart says the party has filed a complaint with the Zimbabwe Election Commission protesting not only the polling authorities' refusal to accredit its monitors, but also the failure of the ruling ZANU-PF party to publish the list of its own monitors within the legal time limit.

Chief election officer Lovemore Sekeramayi who was asked to comment told VOA Wednesday he does not answer questions from the media over the telephone and said he was too busy to answer questions faxed to him. South African observers who were contacted for comment said they were under instructions not to talk to the media.

Party monitors at polling stations help identify each voter, assure the legality of the voting process and monitor the counting of ballots. MDC officials say the monitors' presence is critical in assuring the elections are not being rigged.

Independent candidate and former information minister Jonathan Moyo has said he is filing a lawsuit to seek permission to increase the number of party monitors inside the polling stations.

Voting at Zimbabwe's 8,000 polling stations ends Thursday at seven o'clock in the evening.