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Mugabe Sets Senate Election Date; Opposition Mulls Participation

Zimbabwe's state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Saturday that President Robert Mugabe has set November 26, as the date for elections to fill 50 of 66 seats in the senate re-established under constitutional amendment legislation passed over the objections of the opposition, which has yet to decide if it will field candidates.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, meanwhile, told a rally in Harare that the opposition party's national executive committee will reach a decision on Wednesday as to whether the opposition will take part in the ballot. Mr. Tsvangirai declared to 5,000 supporters present at the Zimbabwe Grounds in the Harare suburb of Highfield that he opposed participation but would defer to the party executive.

Party secretary general Welchman Ncube, also on the platform in Highfield, declined to express his opinion, similarly deferring to the national executive. But he is known to feel that the MDC must seek senate seats or leave a clear field to the ruling party, the president's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi for VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe filed a report on the MDC rally in Harare.

The Herald said President Mugabe "proclaimed the date for the poll for the 50 constituency senators, five from each an Extraordinary Government Gazette" published on Friday. In addition to the 50 elected senators, traditional chiefs will fill 10 seats, and the president will name six senators, for a total of 66.

The Herald said nomination courts will sit on Oct. 24 at 10 provincial centres. The president set Oct. 16 as the date on which voters rolls will be closed. Zimbabwe's eight provincial assemblies of chiefs will select eight senators on Nov. 26, while the other two seats will be held ex officio by the assembly president and his deputy.

Mr. Mugabe also set Nov. 26 for a parliamentary by-election in Gutu North.