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12/27/04 - ZIMBABWE ELECTION - 2004-12-28

Zimbabwe will hold parliamentary elections in March. But President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party are making it difficult for those who oppose them. Mr. Mugabe has served as Zimbabwe's president since 1980. Mismanagement, rampant inflation, and major abuses of freedom of expression and other human rights have taken their toll on the economy, which has been in a state of collapse since 2000.

The U.S. government and others, including Amnesty International, have commented on intimidation and fraud in elections held in 2000 and 2002. This month, Zimbabwe's state radio announced that a commission appointed by President Mugabe has merged six urban parliamentary seats to form just three. The leading opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, won those six districts in the 2000 general election. Three new voting districts have been created in the ruling ZANU-PF party's traditional rural strongholds.

Professor Lovemor Maduku is chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a group seeking a new constitution for Zimbabwe. Mr. Maduku says that "ZANU-PF has gained more seats in areas [where] it is assured of victory."

In addition, the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Company, or Z-B-C, has refused to run an advertisement provided by the Movement for Democratic Change. The refusal, says Paul Themba Nyathi, a movement spokesman, not only underlines "the extent to which the Zimbabwe government is failing to comply with the election stands. It also provides a stark reminder of the fact that Z-B-C is now simply a propaganda arm of the ruling party."

To get Zimbabwe back on track, the government must hold free and fair elections in compliance with the election guidelines of the fourteen-nation Southern African Development Community.

President George W. Bush says, "Human rights are defined by a constitution, they're defended by an impartial rule of law, [and] they're secured in a pluralistic society.... We've got to speak clearly for freedom," says Mr. Bush, "and we will in places like...Zimbabwe."