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Zimbabwe Justice Ministry Vetting Applications By Election Observers

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network said Monday that it is submitting applications for election observers to the Ministry of Justice, which has taken the responsibility for clearing applications by domestic observers before they can be processed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, nominally the authority in this domain.

Though the commission issues observer permits, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, senior negotiator for the ruling ZANU-PF party in the South African-mediated crisis resolution talks which dead-ended earlier this year, was quoted in the state-run Herald newspaper this weekend laying out the procedure for applications.

The election support network said it will draw observers from its membership, which includes a number of civil society organizations.

The South African-based Electoral Institution of Southern Africa has sought permission to send observers, but a spokesman for the group said it awaits a response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That ministry is also considering an application from the Parliamentary Forum of the Southern African Development Community, whose application to send observers to 2005 general elections was turned down.

An Electoral Commission official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say if any observers have been accredited as of Monday, stating only that the process is open until March 29, the day of the presidential, general and local elections.

Election Support Network Chairman Noel Kututwa told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his organization will face major difficulties if its observer applications are rejected.

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