October 24, 2003

Tsvangirai opens electoral legal battle

The international spotlight will soon fall on Zimbabwe when opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai opens his case against President Robert Mugabe over last year's disputed presidential election. Tsvangirai's lawyers, led by South African Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett, filed their arguments against Mugabe and raised a range of issues to be contested when the case opens in the High Court on November 3.

"Tsvangirai will argue that Section 158 of the Electoral Act is unconstitutional, and that this invalidates the 2002 presidential election because the conduct and outcome of the election was strongly influenced by regulations made under that section," the lawyers announced. Section 158 of the Electoral Act gives Mugabe the power to amend electoral law but MDC lawyers say by "unconstitutionally delegating parliament's legislative power to the president, the provision is invalid, and any regulations made under it also invalid".

Mugabe made numerous changes to the electoral law in the run-up to the poll, in some cases a day before the election, which Tsvangirai alleges were designed to manipulate the outcome. MDC attorneys declare that one of these modifications overturned a Supreme Court ruling that had declared the General Laws Amendment Act unconstitutional. The law had amended the electoral legislation. Tsvangirai will furthermore argue that some of the changes disenfranchised a "large number of Zimbabwean citizens who were declared to be 'foreign' citizens", deprived certain categories of postal voters of their right to cast the ballot, and limited the number of polling stations in urban areas where he was strong. (Zimbabwe Independent, Harare)

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