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Zimbabwe Local Observers Shun Presidential Run-Off Election

Local election observers in Zimbabwe said Thursday that they will not monitor the presidential run-off election to be held on Friday, citing a late government invitation allowing only a limited number of observers, and rising violence against domestic election observers.

President Robert Mugabe is in effect the only candidate in the election, following opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's announcement he would not participate in the election.

Officials of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said an invitation letter from Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa reduced the number of its observers to 500 compared with more than 8,000 in the first round of elections on March 29. They said this made it impossible to monitor the more than 9.000 polling stations around the country.

So the only observers in the field would be the 460 dispatched by the Southern African Development Community and the Pan-African Parliament.

ZESN National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the group would now rely on the public for information about the voting process, inviting Zimbabweans to send reports to it by text message.

Though the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Tsvangirai is boycotting the presidential ballot over widespread and deadly political violence, among other issues, it has urged MDC voters to turn out to vote in three parliamentary by-elections.

The Tsvangirai MDC formation has fielded candidates in the Pelendaba/Mpopoma and Redcliff constituencies in Midlands province, and Gwanda South in Matebeleland South, where three candidates of the MDC formation of Arthur Mutambara died before the March elections.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Tsvangirai's MDC grouping told reporter Patience Rusere that his party's candidates decided to contest after assessing their local situations.

Officials of the Mutambara MDC formation said they are also encouraging voters to boycott the presidential ballot, but urging them to vote in the three by-elections.

The two MDC formations collectively garnered a majority of five seats in the lower house of parliament in the March 29 general election.

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