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Electoral body ignores MDC call on election boundaries
Sebastian Nyamhangambiri, ZimOnline
November 26, 2007

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says it is will press ahead with demarcation of constituencies for next year's elections despite pleas by the opposition to shelve the exercise until the conclusion of talks with the ruling ZANU PF party.

ZEC public relations director Shupikai Mashereni said the commission had the "legal mandate" to prepare for the polls including drawing up constituency boundaries, adding it would only stop doing so if ordered by the government.

"We work according to the law and as things stand, we have the legal mandate to draw the (constituency) boundaries," Mashereni told ZimOnline at the weekend.

"We will only stop when we are told to or if the law changes," the ZEC official said, adding that it was only reasonable that the commission starts its work now or it would fail to meet deadlines.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Morgan Tsvangirai has called on ZEC to delay the delimitation of constituencies, saying while the commission had the mandate to demarcate constituencies, its composition was still subject for discussion at the ongoing talks with the ruling ZANU PF party.

The MDC and ZANU PF are engaged in talks under South African mediation aimed at resolving Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis. A key objective of the talks is to ensure next year's joint presidential and parliamentary polls are free and fair.

A constitutional amendment enacted by the government last August with backing from the MDC among other key provisions empowers the ZEC to take over registration of voters, demarcation of constituencies and overall management of elections.

However, the MDC says the spirit of the constitutional amendment was that a new commission and not a "sanitised" version of the existing one be appointed to register voters, demarcate constituencies and oversee preparations for next year's elections.

The MDC accuses the current ZEC led by former soldier and High Court judge George Chiweshe of bias in favour of President Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF, a charge the commission denies.

Postponing demarcation of constituencies until conclusion of inter-party talks could mean moving the polls to a date later than the scheduled March.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a debilitating economic crisis that is highlighted by the world's highest inflation rate of nearly 8 000 percent, a rapidly contracting GDP, the fastest for a country not at war according to the World Bank and shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel.

Political analysts believe truly democratic polls next year are a key requirement to any initiative to pluck Zimbabwe out of an ever-worsening political and economic crisis.

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