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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Accused Of Manipulating Electoral Process

The Zimbabwean cabinet has approved measures to schedule both presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008, sending them to parliament for further action.

The state-run Herald paper quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying that the only issue remaining was whether seats in the senate that was reinstituted in 2005 should be filled directly by voters or proportionally based on house results. He said this question would be decided by the ruling ZANU-PF party central committee.

But National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he takes exception to the ZANU-PF central committee deciding on the required constitutional amendments, which he said amounted to politicizing the country's electoral process.

The cabinet also proposed to increase the number of senate seats from 66 to 84, and to add 60 house seats bringing the total to 210. Critics say the government intends to add most of those seats in rural areas where ZANU-PF largely dominates.

National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said the logistical burden of implementing the proposals would be overwhelming.

Although the presidential and parliamentary elections are 11 months away, politicians are shifting into campaign mode. Officials of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change aim to build support in rural districts long considered ZANU-PF strongholds.

As correspondent Loirdham Moyo reports from Mutare, Manicaland opposition officials say they plan to hit the campaign trail as soon as they receive orders from Harare.

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