File picture: REUTERS
File picture: REUTERS

Harare — Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) staged a peaceful protest in the capital, Harare, to demand a series of electoral reforms before the country votes on July 30 in the first ballot since Robert Mugabe stepped down as president.

Several hundred people, some of them carrying placards reading, "No to Bogus polling stations" and "Free and fair elections", joined a march on Tuesday to the electoral commission’s offices where they presented their demands, including that the opposition be given the right to scrutinise the voters’ roll and equal access to the media. MDC leader Nelson Chamisa is due to address the party’s supporters later in the day.

EU monitors will observe the vote for the first time since 2002. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Chamisa are seen as the front-runners in the presidential race.

Police gave permission for the opposition protest and ordered the youth wing of the ruling Zanu-PF to call off a planned counter-demonstration.

Last month, the country’s constitutional court ruled against one of the opposition’s demands — to allow Zimbabweans living abroad to have the right to vote for the first time.

The election will take place as the nation’s economy, which has halved in size since 2000, faces a cash crisis that limits withdrawals from banks and the government’s ability to pay state workers on time.