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With Zimbabwe Elections Nine Weeks Off, Ruling Party Picks Candidates

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has started holding primary elections to select candidates for the general elections the government has called for March 29.

Though a report on the delimitation of new constituencies prepared by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has yet to be officially gazetted, provincial leaders of the ruling party who met in Harare on Monday were expected to shortly release results for the primaries held in some of the country's 210 constituencies.

A constitutional amendment passed last year added 60 house seats and 27 senate seats - but because 30 seats previously appointed by President Robert Mugabe have become elective seats, in effect 90 new constituencies have been created.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Chen Chemutengwende, chairman of the ruling party in Mashonaland Central province, as saying his province has "almost completed" its primaries. The selection process was said to have been wrapped up in the Mashonaland West districts of Kariba, Karoi and Chinhoi.

Some primaries were marred by violence with intra-party clashes reported in Chinhoyi.

Despite such reports saying primaries are well under way, senior ZANU-PF official Richard Ndlovu, politburo member and deputy secretary for the commissariat, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party is merely taking down the names of potential candidates, not holding actual primaries.

Political commentator Chido Makunike said that although ZANU-PF is ahead of the opposition in selecting candidates, the ruling party has its own set of problems.

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