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Release Poll Funds Urgently, Cash-Strapped Electoral Body Tells Harare

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Monday urged unity government principals to move with speed and secure $132 million the electoral body needs to adequately finance this year’s elections.

With only 30 days before national elections scheduled for July 31, ZEC says the treasury is yet to release money it intends to use to run this year’s polls.

Chairperson Rita Makarau told journalists after meeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at his Charter House offices that the electoral body should be adequately financed in the run-up to the polls. Makarau said her commission’s machinery is ready to roll but needs oiling.

The ZEC chief said government has promised to look for funds for the elections but added time was fast running out.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, confirmed the ZEC request, adding that Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who also attended the meeting, said his department was doing all it can to ensure the polls are adequately financed.
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Minister Biti is on record saying Harare is cash-strapped, adding the government would require external support to finance this year’s crunch polls although nothing has materialized from requests to the Southern African Development Community and other bodies.

Turning to the on-going voter registration, Tamborinyoka said Tsvangirai expressed concern to ZEC over the slow pace of the exercise in urban centres.

Tsvangirai, Tamborinyoka said, also expressed his concern about what he said was a shadowy Israeli organization called Nikuv that is working with the Registrar General’s office to allegedly tamper with the voters’ roll.

Tamborinyoka added that the premier is also concerned about the number of police officers who have applied for postal voting for the forthcoming elections.

Makarau said the names of those who qualify for special voting would be subjected to public scrutiny.

President Robert Mugabe proclaimed July 31st as the date for elections and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has asked the constitutional court to delay the polls to August 14th in line with a SADC directive.

But the date could change if the court rules in favour of Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC formation, who have challenged Mr. Mugabe's decision to have national elections end of the month.

Tsvangirai and Ncube argue that Mugabe’s proclamation was unconstitutional, adding key democratic reforms need to be implemented before the date of elections is fixed.