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Britain Joins Chorus Of Concern Over Approaching Zimbabwe Elections

Great Britain has joined others in the international community and in Zimbabwe itself who have expressed serious concerns as to whether the presidential, general and local elections set to take place in seven weeks can be free and fair.

British Minister of State for Africa Mark Malloch-Brown said President Robert Mugabe had "bulldozed" aside opposition requests for elections to be postponed. He said free and fair elections are unlikely given an “apparatus of intimidation and fear" and that millions Zimbabwean expatriates had been "effectively disenfranchised."

In Zimbabwe, Roman Catholic officials issued a statement Sunday saying the ballots were “ridden with confusion and illegality and…unlikely to be free and fair.”

In South Africa, spokesman Tony Leon for the opposition Democratic Alliance party accused Mr. Mugabe of gerrymandering constituencies and maintaining a monopoly on broadcasting by jamming independent radio signals from abroad.

Secretary General Kasuka Mutukwa of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum, which monitors regional elections, told reporter Blessing Zulu that observers should already be in Zimbabwe to monitor the election process.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, meanwhile, said the registration of voters and the inspection of voter rolls would end on Wednesday contrary to earlier reports which said the process would continue through Thursday.

Election officials for both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said they had assumed registration would continue through Thursday and were still trying to confirm the end date with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, quoted in state media earlier this week as saying registration would end on Wednesday.

Some civic groups have expressed the concern that those trying to register or inspect rolls do not have access to a delimitation or redistricting report and maps prepared by the electoral commission, which added 90 constituencies for a total of 210.

Chairman Noel Kututwa of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network told reporter Carole Gombakomba that his group was looking into the complaints.

ZESN was mourning the death of monitoring officer Denford Beremauro, who died in a car accident Friday and was buried at his rural place of origin on Tuesday.

ZESN and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said Beremauro's death would leave a void at a “critical time” when the nation faces elections in late March.

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