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Zimbabwe Government Extends Deadline For Nominations For March Poll

The government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has put off for one week the date for nomination courts to sit across the country, giving the ruling ZANU-PF party and opposition formations time to complete their primary elections.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had asked for an amendment to the electoral legislation. He said this was to accommodate rural council candidates in particular, but many candidates for parliament are also under pressure to pull together documentation to submit to nomination courts.

Some legal experts said the postponement of nomination courts meant that deadlines for voter registration and inspection of voter rolls should also be pushed back.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network issued a statement saying that the public had until Feb. 14 to verify registration. Officials at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could not be reached to confirm whether this is in fact the official policy.

Some sources said the government's decision was also driven by a lawsuit brought by independent member of parliament Jonathan Moyo, a former information minister, and opposition activist Margaret Dongo. She said the government broke the law by calling for the nomination courts to sit before gazetting the final report on redistricting.

Tafadzwa Mugabe of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told reporter Carole Gombakomba that the government in extending the deadline was trying to cover up a legal blunder with respect to the delimitation report, the basis for the March ballots.

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