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Zimbabwe's Main Opposition Party Boycotts By-Election In Masvingo

Though presidential and parliamentary elections loom large in Zimbabwe with ballots set for March 2008, neither faction of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change is contesting a by-election Saturday in Zaka East, Masvingo Province.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network issued a preliminary report Thursday on the election which noted the absence of a properly constituted nomination court.

Opposition officials say such irregularities are part of the reason why they will boycott the by-election despite the potential benefits of a dry run for March 2008, but also note that the seat will be up for grabs again in just another nine months.

Securing a level playing field for the 2008 elections is one of the main demands of the opposition in crisis talks being mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The election will fill the seat vacated by the late Tinos Rusere of the ruling ZANU-PF party, elected in 2005. Candidates from ZANU-PF, the United People’s Party, and the obscure Zimbabwe People’s Democratic Party are seeking the seat.

Elections Director Ian Makone of the MDC faction led by party founder Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the conditions in Zaka East are not conducive to a free and fair election.

National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said that while the main opposition party is absent from the field, the participation of smaller parties will legitimize the vote despite sub-standard electoral conditions.

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