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Zimbabwe Election Monitors Urge Extension Of Voter Registration Drive

A two-month mobile voter registration drive mounted by Zimbabwe's registrar general was to end on Friday as the office rejected requests that the program be extended to allow many more Zimbabweans to sign up for critical elections in early 2008.

State media quoted Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede as saying extending the drive was not necessary because citizens could register to vote in 55 district centers. But critics said many Zimbabweans cannot afford transport to such centers given the severe economic crisis which has left many ordinary Zimbabweans destitute.

The Office of the Registrar General said it deployed at least three mobile registration vans to each of the country's 150 constituencies, but reports from many areas said the vans were poorly equipped - lacking, for example, materials to make ID photos. Critics said the vans bypassed some areas and only stayed two to three days in others.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a non-governmental organization, wrote to the registrar’s office urging an extension of mobile registration. It said many people did not get a chance to register due to logistical problems that plagued the drive.

The opposition has accused the government of sending significantly more registration vans to constituencies the ruling ZANU-PF party is well entrenched.

No comment on the complaints could be obtained from the Office of the Registrar General or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission despite repeated efforts.

ZESN National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava toild reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that many more people must be registered if the 2008 elections are not to be marred by the apathy seen in recent by-elections.

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