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Zimbabwe Opposition Says Government Manipulating Voter Registration

Both factions of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change say that the nationwide mobile registration exercise kicked off last month has been manipulated in favor of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party.

Opposition activist Renson Gasela, spokesman on agriculture for the MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara, said he observed attempted voter registrations in lower Gweru this weekend and found the exercise to be seriously deficient.

He said many young people seeking identity cards to register to vote could not do so because officials sent by the Office of the Registrar General were out of photo film. He charged that the lack of film was deliberate on the part of authorities and intended to prevent supporters of the opposition from registering to vote.

Harare recently launched a two-month mobile registration drive that is supposed to provide identity cards to those 18 years and over so they can register to vote.

Gasela, a former member of parliament, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the registration drive was not properly planned.

Elections Secretary Ian Makoni of the MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai said that his formation is similarly concerned and will tell Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede in an upcoming meeting that the mobile registration units must return to many districts.

With preparations for January and March 2008 elections picking up momentum, local observers and monitors are reporting mixed feelings on forthcoming ballots.

A constitutional amendment sent to parliament by the government proposing major electoral changes has yet to be passed and signed into law, leading critics to say that official planning at this stage looks hazy. But other opponents of the ruling party say they mean to see elections held on schedule whatever the state of preparations.

Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

Despite repeated calls to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe, ZEC Spokesman Sly Gwana, and Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede, no official response to complaints by opposition members and civil society groups, or comment on preparations for elections, could be obtained.