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Zimbabwe elections body rules out mayoral polls in Harare
September 02, 2005

HARARE -- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says Harare residents can only elect a mayor and councillors of their choice after four years when the term of a state-appointed commission running the opposition-supporting capital cannot be renewed.

The commission was appointed in September last year after opposition Movement for Democratic Change councilors resigned in protest against what they said was interference by the government in the running of the politically crucial capital. Its term has expired.

But Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo extended the commissionís term and has ruled out municipal elections in the city saying he wants to improve its administration first before a new council can take over.

In papers filed on Thursday in response to a High Court application by the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) demanding the ZEC to hold elections in the capital, commission chairman George Chiweshe wrote: "It is within the powers of the ZEC to postpone elections for the office of Mayor for a period not exceeding (3) three months at any one time.

"This (the commission) can do until the fourth year, from the time the Mayor (and council) was elected, when it becomes obligatory to hold elections and no further postponements are then allowed."

Harare residents accuse the government of stalling on elections in the capital for fear it could lose the polls to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party which has consistently won all elections in all major urban centres since its formation six years ago.

The Harare Commission was a back-door means by President Robert Mugabe and his government to retain control of the capital city, residents say.

The ZEC created by the government is empowered to run elections in Zimbabwe but critics say the body lacks independence because it was virtually handpicked by Mugabe and the majority of its members are well-known supporters of the ruling ZANU PF party.

For example, Chiweshe himself is a former senior army officer and was appointed to the High Court after Mugabe purged the bench of independent judges.

In the run up to the disputed March election, Chiweshe headed the Delimitation Commission that redrew the countryís voting constituencies, abolishing constituencies from MDC-dominated areas and awarding them to rural areas where ZANU PF enjoys more support. - ZimOnline.

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