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Controversy As Zimbabwe Elections Panel Allocates New Constituencies

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has carved out 90 new constituencies to bring the number of seats in parliament’s lower house to 210, drawing objections from the political opposition which says the move preempts the outcome of crisis talks.

The commission late last week announced the distribution by province of the new constituencies: 11 in Harare; five in Bulawayo; 10 in Mashonaland East; eight in Mashonaland Central; nine in Mashonaland West; 12 in Masvingo; six each in Matabeleland North and South; 11 in Manicaland and 12 in Midlands.

The commission said some 5.6 million people are registered to vote.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai is objecting to the whole process, as it says the delimitation of constituencies shouldn’t have taken place until the conclusion of South African-mediated crisis talks.

It accuses the electoral commission of gerrymandering the new constituencies, that is, allocating them so as to favor the ruling party in the elections.

But spokesman Gabriel Chaibva of the opposition faction led by Arthur Mutambara said the grouping will comment only after constituency boundaries are set down.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe could not be reached.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai opposition formation told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party's national council will decide what course of action to take when it meets this weekend.

The national council will also be assessing the progress made - or lack of it, as senior Tsvangirai grouping officials declared during the past weekend's European Union-African summit in Lisbon - in negotiations with the ruling party. What some refer to as the SADC process was launched by the Southern African Development Community following a serious upsurge in political violence in March of this year.

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