February 25, 2005

SADC to deploy observers for elections

Zimbabwe has belatedly invited the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to send observers to monitor its parliamentary poll, seen as a key test of new SADC electoral guidelines. Under the SADC guidelines, the invitation should have been extended 90 days before the March 31 elections. "It is not too late and we will work very fast to get the observers there," Prega Ramsamy told at the end of a SADC council of ministers meeting. Political analysts say the elections will be a test of the electoral guidelines and principles adopted by SADC last August to ensure member states adhere to free and fair elections. Ramsamy said he expected at least 13 observers from SADC states to be sent but gave no date for their deployment. Government has in the meantime also set up an electoral court to handle legal matters arising from the general election, the official Herald newspaper reported. Zimbabwe's top judge, Godfrey Chidyausiku, appointed High Court judges Tendayi Uchena, Maphios Cheda and Nicholas Ndou to the new court to hear election petitions, the Herald reported. "The Electoral Court is now in place and the administrative machinery is also in place.
In the meantime, the main opposition has launched its election campaign, promising to build "a new Zimbabwe" and urging supporters to end the "battering" from President Robert Mugabe's rule. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which made an 11th-hour decision to contest the parliamentary elections on March 31, drew thousands of supporters at a rally held in Masvingo, some 300 kilometres south of Harare. "We are determined to see a new beginning and a new Zimbabwe," MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the crowd gathered at a stadium not far from the 13th-century Great Zimbabwe ruins from which the southern African country took its name at independence. "We enter the race from a position of strength," Mr Tsvangirai said. "We are confident of victory; we shall win the popular vote as we did in 2000 and 2002." The MDC won almost half of the 120 contested seats in parliament in the 2000 elections, mounting the biggest challenge to date to the ruling Zanu PF party. (Business Day, Johannesburg /AFP / Rts)

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