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Zimbabwe Opposition Voices Early Concern About Electoral Climate

One faction of Zimbabwe's divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change says it won't contest a by-election in the Zaka East constituency of Masvingo Province due to the increasingly violent political climate and the fact that whoever wins the seat will have to defend it 10 months hence in the March 2008 early general elections.

Elections Director Paul Themba Nyathi of the opposition faction headed by Arthur Mutambara told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the grouping decided not to contest the seat because of the electoral climate.

Since mid-March the government has been keeping heavy pressure on the opposition with hundreds of activists abducted and beaten, though most of those targeted have been loyalists of Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC's founding president.

Officials in the Tsvangirai faction said they will shortly decide whether to contest the Zaka East seat. The June 9 election has been called to fill the seat vacated upon the death of ZANU-PF parliamentarian Tinos Rusere in March.

Local government minister Ignatious Chombo announced, meanwhile, that elections for local offices will be held in January 2008. ZANU-PF had proposed to hold the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections at the same time.

Tsvangirai MDC faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the announcement showed that the ruling party is already planning to rig next year’s elections.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...