The main opposition party in Zimbabwe is taking the government to court after officials disqualified about half of the opposition candidates in upcoming local elections.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says 639 of its candidates were declared ineligible to run for office for a variety of reasons, most of them false. The group accuses the government of illegally rejecting documentation and changing the times and locations of nomination courts with little or no notice.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says that in some cases, its candidates were scared away from the registration courts by threats of violence.

The government says the opposition failed to nominate candidates in many areas.

The voting at the end of September would have been the first local government elections for the MDC since it was formed three years ago.

It won nearly half of the elected seats in parliamentary elections in June 2000.

Local elections are particularly important in Zimbabwe, where local officials have broad powers, particularly in rural areas. Without the opposition candidates, the ruling Zanu PF party is guaranteed to control most of the local governments in the country.

Political analysts have called Zimbabwe's nomination process biased and inefficient.

The MDC is also challenging the outcome of presidential elections in March, which gave President Robert Mugabe another six years in power.