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Zimbabwe Election Monitoring Group Sees Challenges In 2008 Balloting

A respected election monitoring group said preparations for Zimbabwean presidential, parliamentary and rural council elections set for March 2008 must begin without delay even though legislation is still required to shift the date of the general election.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Reginald Matchaba-Hove said the country’s electoral process is already fraught with issues including the redistricting that will arise from the addition of house and senate seats, and a shortage of materials to produce national identity cards, which could hinder voter registration.

Last week the cabinet proposed to increase the number of senatorial seats from 66 to 84, while the lower chamber is to expand from 150 to 210 seats.

Many observers see the parliamentary expansion as a move by the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe to shore up its position before the 2008 elections, as most new house seats will be created in rural areas it traditionally dominates. The ruling party is also proposing that senate seats be proportionally allocated.

President Mugabe's current term expires in 2008, but the next general election was not due until 2010 and rural district council elections were just held in 2006. Special legislation will be required to prospectively shorten the parliamentary term.

Matchaba-Hove told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that voter education programs must be rolled out across the country immediately if the presidential, parliamentary and rural council elections are to be credible.

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