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Zimbabwe Ballot Group Says March 2008 Elections Coming Up Fast

The head of the Zimbabwe Election Support Group, which fielded thousands of ballot monitors in the country's 2005 general election, said Wednesday that time is running short for the country to get ready for national elections set for March 2008.

ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa said much more needs to be done in terms of election reform and logistical preparations for the elections to be seen as free and fair.

The group says that although the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change both backed an amendment to the constitution effecting major changes to the electoral landscape, many changes are needed to electoral laws. The amendment legislation still awaits signature by President Robert Mugabe.

Meanwhile, Oct. 31 deadline for the conclusion of South African-mediated crisis talks is coming up fast, and the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai is threatening to exit the talks over what it says is a state campaign of violence against its members. The two sides in the talks are still haggling over a large number of electoral issues.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it is stepping up election preparations - its chief elections officer, Lovemore Moyo, told a parliamentary committee that it has given the Ministry of Finance a budget, but did not disclose further details.

The commission said it has written to the Office of the Registrar General, from which it recently took over the task of voter registration, requesting various materials and said it is filling up vacancies so that it has its own staff to manage those responsibilities.

VOA could not reach a ZEC spokesman for comment on its preparations.

ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that with time short the outlook for orderly elections is not bright.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...