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Zimbabwe poll body says ready to run March vote
February 06, 2005

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's electoral commission says it is ready to conduct March polls but the country's opposition said on Sunday the body had little time to prepare and was using old, discredited structures for the vote.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was set up last month as part of President Robert Mugabe's government electoral reforms with a mandate to organise and monitor the vote.

Critics say Mugabe has failed to deliver on international demands for wide-ranging democratic electoral reforms, and has compounded the Zimbabwe crisis with a set of cosmetic measures designed to keep his ZANU-PF party in power.

Commission chairman judge George Chiweshe told the state-owned Sunday Mail in an interview that the electoral body would use existing structures to conduct the March 31 elections.

"For us the time is adequate...there is nothing new about such elections and the argument that the period given is too short has no basis at all," Chiweshe said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wanted the poll delayed, saying the commission would not have enough time to prepare. But the government said it would be illegal to postpone the vote.

On Sunday MDC spokesman Paul-Themba Nyathi said the commission was using the "discredited" structures for the elections, referring to the commission sharing offices and staff with other poll bodiess.

The MDC says that it was robbed of victory in the 2000 parliamentary elections won by ZANU-PF and the the presidential vote two years later, won by Mugabe amid charges of vote-rigging and violence.

Four other bodies are involved in running of elections.

"They are using structures of discredited institutions which have failed to run credible elections since independence in 1980," Themba-Nyathi told Reuters.

Themba-Nyathi said the commission could not deal with disputes arising from elections. The MDC wanted the body to be given powers to punish perpetrators of violence which it says has tilted previous polls in favour of ZANU-PF.

"What is crucial is for the people to gain confidence in their electoral body which should be able to deal with electoral disputes," said Themba-Nyathi.

Mugabe on Saturday accused MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai of seeking financial support for his party from the West, which he says wants to punish his government for its land seizures to resettle Blacks.

Mugabe, 81 later this month, says he has won elections fairly and his party will bury the MDC in next month's polls.

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