December 21, 2004

MDC loses two potential seats

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change has lost two potential seats in its political strongholds after a government-appointed delimitation commission cut the number of constituencies in some areas and increased seats in known ruling party strongholds. The Delimitation Commission said the number of urban voters had reduced, which resulted in the number of seats in the affected areas being cut. There are 120 constituencies in the country. "There are 5.6 million registered voters in the country, the majority of whom are now living in rural areas," said Commission chairman Justice George Chiweshe. The other commissioners are Dr Job Whabira, Dr Charles Mukora and Dr Maclean Bhala, attributed the increase in the number of rural-based voters to the government’s land reform programme which he said had seen a reversal of the rural-urban migration.

The urban areas of Harare and Bulawayo are considered MDC strongholds as the party romped to victory in all the contested seats in the last election in 2000. According to Remius Makuwaza, the MDC director of elections, the determination of boundaries was part of the electoral process, and with proposed changes on the way elections are run, an acceptable situation would have been for the delimitation commission to fall under an independent electoral supervisory commission. He said as long as members of the body were handpicked, the outcome of their work would be compromised. "The work of determining boundaries must be part and parcel of an independent electoral supervisory commission. Swearing in a commission under the provisions of the past shows that the government is not serious about electoral reforms," said Makuwaza. Wurayayi Zembe, president of the Democratic Party, expressed similar views, adding the handpicking of the commission’s members showed that next year’s parliamentary polls would not be conducted under new electoral laws. MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi said: "The electoral field is not even. That is why we have said our participation in the 2005 parliamentary elections will only be on the basis that government adopts the SADC protocols on elections, which promote equal opportunity to campaign." (The Daily News Online)

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