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groups say elections should be postponed
Scott Bobb, Voice of America (VOA)
November 09, 2007
groups in Zimbabwe say presidential and parliamentary elections
due in March should be delayed, because there is not enough time
to organize a proper vote. The director of the Zimbabwe
Civic Education Trust, David Chimhini, notes that the ruling
Zanu PF party and two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change are still negotiating legal and political reforms aimed at
ensuring a free and fair vote. "The negotiations that are going
on, mediated by South Africa, we still need to get that information
relayed out to the electorate and we don't see sufficient time at
the moment to do that," he said. President Robert Mugabe's
term expires in March, and he has said he will stand for re-election.
Although the eighty-three-year-old Mugabe will face a weak and divided
opposition, critics say the country's severe economic crisis poses
a major threat to his rule. Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate
in the world, above 7,900 percent as well as food, fuel and foreign
currency shortages. Nevertheless, a senior government official this
past week repeated that elections will be held as scheduled. The
head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said his group would begin
delineating voting districts this month. Mugabe signed into law
constitutional changes allowing Zimbabwe to hold presidential and
parliamentary elections at the same time. They have previously been
Voter education groups
say the combined elections will involve several paper ballots that
will confuse voters if they are not properly educated beforehand.
The constitutional amendment emerged from negotiations, mediated
by South African President Thabo Mbeki, which began earlier this
year at the urging of southern African heads of state. Various parties
to the ongoing negotiations have privately said the talks are progressing
well, but they note that many points are still being discussed.
These include proposed changes to laws governing political activity
and the news media and measures to ensure what is termed a proper
environment for a free and fair vote. Chimhini says the current
political environment is too tense to hold free and fair elections.
"We still need to get assurances that the government and the
ruling party will desist from any politically motivated violence,"
he said. An international delegation of lawyers that visited Zimbabwe
has reported that disrespect by security forces for the law and
judicial system poses a serious threat to a free and fair vote.
The lawyers said that without impartial policing and human rights
protections, it would be difficult for the citizens of Zimbabwe
to participate freely in any democratic process.
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