As Zimbabwe's Zanu PF nears the end of its primary elections for the national poll expected in March, Peta Thornycroft reports that the ruling party has been through a turbulent period.

Political analysts say that Zanu PF's so-called old guard, the party leaders during the struggle for independence, have returned to political prominence.

They say most of the newer and younger party leaders who entered politics in the elections of 2000 have been abandoned by Zanu PF. Among the most prominent to be sidelined are justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and information minister Jonathan Moyo.

One candidate who was not sidelined is agriculture minister Joseph Made. Analysts are surprised he is being allowed to stand for election in the primaries because he has been criticized by some senior leaders in Zanu PF and many government economists for his inaccurate Zimbabwe crop forecasts.

More women will stand for national elections. A a deliberate policy move by Zanu PF to get more women in the legislature.

There are still a small number of districts that have not finished electing party candidates. Among them is Mr. Moyo's district. Zanu PF says that district, and several others in the same Matabeleland province in southern Zimbabwe will be finalized soon.

New laws to govern Zimbabwe's elections were passed by parliament late last year and were signed into law last week by President Robert Mugabe.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says none of the new laws comply with regional electoral principles that Mr. Mugabe and other southern Africa leaders signed last August.