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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 16:35 GMT
Zimbabwe expats lose vote battle
Mugabe at rally in Gutu
Mugabe says expatriates can only vote if they come back to Zimbabwe
More than three million Zimbabweans living abroad will not be able to vote in the 31 March parliamentary poll, Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has ruled.

It dismissed a challenge by seven UK-based Zimbabweans to a law barring citizens abroad from voting.

"This application has no merit," said Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a former government minister.

Critics of the law say the ruling Zanu-PF party fears that Zimbabweans abroad would vote for the opposition.

Correspondents say Zimbabweans are leaving in increasing numbers because of an economic and political crisis.

'Far-fetched'

Justice Chidyausiku said the full reasons for the judgement would be given later.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa
[The request is] far-fetched and virtually impossible
Patrick Chinamasa
Justice minister

The seven, who call themselves the Diaspora Vote Action Group, had argued in the court that they were being "punished" for leaving.

"The denial of citizens resident in a foreign country to vote is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society," they said in papers filed by their lawyer.

Only diplomats and military personnel and their families abroad can vote.

President Robert Mugabe's government says other expatriates should return to Zimbabwe if they wish to vote.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the expatriates' request was "far-fetched and virtually impossible", requiring major changes to the recently-amended electoral laws.

The reforms were signed into law by Mr Mugabe following accusations of fraud and violence in two elections.

The government has promised to abide by a new regional code of conduct for ensuring elections are free and fair.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a growing list of human rights groups and NGO say they have seen little change on the ground.

They cite irregularities such as a questionable voters roll, human rights abuses and restrictions on opposition campaigning.


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The reasons behind Zimbabwe's Supreme Court ruling



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