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Zimbabwe Court Rules for Displaced Voters

January 27, 2002|From Reuters

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe's High Court, ruling in favor of the opposition, has ordered the government to allow people to vote in any constituency in the presidential election in March, an opposition party spokesman said Saturday.

Learnmore Jongwe, information secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change, said the ruling handed down Friday would enable thousands of Zimbabweans who he said had been displaced by political violence to cast their vote in the March 9-10 poll.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai poses the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe in his 22-year rule.

"We welcome the ruling, which will make it possible for tens of thousands of our supporters who have been forced to flee their constituencies due to violence to vote," Jongwe said, confirming a report on the ruling in the privately owned Daily News.

The ruling comes at a time of mounting pressure on the Zimbabwean government by the Commonwealth, the European Union, the United States and human rights groups to take action to ensure that the March election will be free and fair.

They have criticized the government's human rights record, its passing of laws to tighten the ruling party's grip on power, crackdowns on the opposition and its handling of the country's economic crisis.

A controversial media bill due to be debated by parliament this week would restrict access for foreign correspondents and require local journalists to obtain a license.

"The High Court judge, Justice Rita Makarau, ordered Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar general, to allow people to vote anywhere in the country and not necessarily in their constituencies as decreed by the government," Saturday's Daily News reported.

In her ruling Friday, the judge ordered Mudede to compile a common voters' roll in time for the election, the Daily News said.

Rights groups say hundreds of Zimbabweans have been displaced in the political violence that has rocked the country ahead of the election.

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