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ZIMBABWE: NGO calls for elections to be delayed
October 25, 2004

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections, scheduled for March next year, should be delayed, a local poll observer network told IRIN on Monday.

Reginald Machaba-Hove of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) told IRIN that the implementation of new electoral reforms, such as voting in one day, transparent ballot boxes and increasing polling stations, "cannot be done in time by March".

"There's no way we can have elections by March next year, and say the conditions were free and fair. We're calling for the elections to be delayed beyond March, so as to allow for sufficient time for all the necessary consultations to take place with all stakeholders, including the opposition and NGOs, and to make the adjustments [required by new legislation]. Our point is that it will take time to have adequate consultations," Machaba-Hove added.

This follows doubts raised by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over the validity of the voters' roll, and news reports quoting Zimbabwe's foreign minister as saying that foreign powers were attempting to discredit the legislative poll before it was held.

Media reports quoted MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai as saying that analysis of a hard copy of the voters' roll indicated it "has been manipulated to secure even further reductions in urban seats".

The roll was not consistent with the 2002 census, as it showed increased voter registrations in rural areas and a decrease in urban areas, where the MDC has traditionally been strong. Tsvangirai called for an independent audit of the voters' roll.

The ruling ZANU-PF party's secretary for information, Nathan Shamuyarira, rejected Tsvangirai's accusation, adding that "we [the government] are setting up an independent commission to conduct the elections and they [the MDC] can complain there".

Machaba-Hove, meanwhile, said ZESN "have not seen any copy of the voters' roll, and our position has been and still is that, as far as we are concerned, a voter registration exercise is still to be done properly, and it is strange if the roll is completed already".

He added that there "are fears that there could be gerrymandering".

On Friday the official Herald newspaper reported that Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge believed some Western countries and organisations were attempting to discredit next year's parliamentary elections, and were trying to influence the composition of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) election observer team.

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