Zimbabwe prepares for election

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Friday, March 28, 2008

A parliamentary election and a presidential election will be held in Zimbabwe on Saturday, March 29, 2008. The parliamentary election is for both the House of Assembly and the Senate. In the presidential election, Voice of America has reported that analysts in Zimbabwe have predicted a victory for incumbent Robert Mugabe.

With the last parliamentary election having been held in 2005, the subsequent election was initially planned to be held in 2010, but after an abortive plan to delay the 2008 presidential election to 2010, it was decided to instead bring the parliamentary election forward by two years so that it could be held concurrently with the 2008 presidential election.

The House of Assembly is being expanded from 150 to 210 members, all elected, in the 2008 election, while the Senate is being expanded to 93 seats, 60 of which will be directly elected (six from each province). There are 29 constituencies in Harare, 28 in Midlands, 26 in Manicaland, 18 in Mashonaland Central, 23 in Mashonaland East, 22 in Mashonaland West, 26 in Masvingo, 13 in Matabeleland North, and 13 in Matabeleland South, and 12 in Bulawayo. Unlike in past elections, when constituency voter rolls were used, ward voter rolls will be used in the 2008 election. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission delimited 1,958 wards.

On January 25, 2008, the specific date of the election was announced as March 29. A spokesperson for the faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai denounced this as "an act of madness and arrogance", while the leader of the other MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, said that a free and fair election could not be held under the existing conditions, calling for a new constitution to be adopted prior to the election.

Prior to the election being held, ZANU-PF has already won two seats where it was unopposed: the House of Assembly seat from Muzarabani South, won by Edward Raradza, and the Senate seat from Rushinga, won by Damien Mumvuri.

While not inviting any observers from the European Union or the United States, Zimbabwe has invited 47 observer teams, including observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, China, Russia, and Iran. On March 11, the arrival of the first 50 observers from SADC was reported, with more expected. SADC had already conducted a preliminary mission in February, in which its team looked at constituencies, their boundaries, and the number of candidates, and used that information to determine the number of observers that would be necessary.

There are about 5.6 million registered voters and there will be about 11,000 polling stations, compared to about 4,000 polling stations in the 2005 parliamentary election.