[JURIST] Zimbabwean opposition group Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website, in English] on Sunday accused President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of plotting to commit election fraud by printing millions of surplus ballot papers in advance of the March 29 presidential vote. MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [official website] leaked information showing that at Mugabe's request, 9 million paper ballots were printed for the country's 5.7 million registered voters; 600,000 of those ballots were designated as "postal ballots" for police officers, soldiers and civil servants living abroad, a group which Biti estimates to total no more than 50,000. Biti accused Mugabe of "stealing" the 2002 election [BBC report], which he won by a margin of 350,000 votes. Judge George Mutandwa Chiweshe, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission since his appointment by Mugabe in January 2005, has rejected all suggestions that the extra papers might be misused.
Mugabe, now 84 years old, has served as the head of government in Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] since 1980, when the country attained independence from Britain. Human Rights Watch [advocacy site] raised doubts about the upcoming election in a report [text] last Wednesday, suggesting that it was likely to be "deeply flawed." Despite concerns of fairness, analysts project that the election poses the biggest threat to Mugabe's rule since he took office. CNN has more. BBC News has additional coverage.