Zimbabwe's Supreme court has ruled that Zimbabweans living abroad can not vote in upcoming parliamentary elections later this month, or in future polls. The state-run Herald newspaper reports the Supreme Court on has rejected a petition from Zimbabwean citizens living in Britain. They challenged laws that prevent an estimated three million Zimbabwean citizens living abroad from casting their ballots. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku is quoted as saying the petition lacked merit. Under Zimbabwean law, only diplomats and military personnel and their families abroad can vote. Parliamentary elections, set for March 31st, are expected to come under intense scrutiny after international observers said the 2002 presidential elections were not free and fair.

Matthew Nyashanu is the communications officer of the Diaspora Vote Action Group in Birmingham, England. Seven members of the group were behind the suit demanding the right to vote. Mr. Nyashanu told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that in his first several years in power, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe supported the right of exiles to vote. He says that changed when opposition began to grow to his rule.

Mr. Nyashanu says his group will continue to challenge the government on the issue, and will ask exiles not to send money home to relatives using official channels, which had been requested by Zimbabwe?s Central Bank. It has courted Zimbabweans abroad in an effort to prop up the country?s failing currency.