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Zimbabwean Government Selective In Accrediting Election Observers

The Zimbabwean government has invited 47 countries and organizations to send delegations to observe national elections on March 29, including 23 African countries but excluding the United States and all countries of the European Union.

Announcing the list, Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi specified that the United States and the European Union had been excluded because, he maintained, they “believe the only free and fair election is one where the opposition wins." He added that the ruling ZANU-PF party is "poised to score yet another triumph."

The African observer contingent includes 13 nations of the Southern African Development Community, of which Zimbabwe is a member, plus Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda.

Invited from Asia were China - with which Zimbabwe has assiduously developed ties in recent years to offset its political and economic isolation from the West - India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Iran. From the Americas Harare has invited delegations from Brazil, Jamaica, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Besides SADC, which will send a delegation from its organizational secretariat, the government has invited the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, better known as Comesa, and the Economic Community of West African States, or Ecowas, among others including the Maghreb Union.

Russia is the only European country to have received an invitation. The U.S.-based December 12 Movement, which backs President Robert Mugabe and supports his accusations that the West has sought to undermine his administration because he seized land from white farmers beginning in 2000, has also been invited.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Mumbengegwi as saying that the invitations were extended based on “reciprocity, objectivity and impartiality.”

But Director Earnest Mudzengi of the National Constitutional Assembly told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare’s admission of certain countries and its exclusion of others shows that the Harare government does not want close international scrutiny of how the forthcoming ballots are conducted.

Political analyst Joshua Mhambi of Bulawayo told reporter Brenda Moyo that although the list of organizations invited is fairly broad, it mostly includes groups from countries that are aligned with Zimbabwe or have business interests there.

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