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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Finalizes Constitutional Amendment On Elections

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe this week signed into law an amendment to the country's constitution which significantly changes its electoral framework - for one thing giving parliament the power to name his successor if he leaves office.

Legislation for the amendment was passed by Zimbabwe's parliament in September with the support of the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition, which had compromised on its form in South African-brokered crisis talks.

Reports quoted the civic group Veritas as saying Mr. Mugabe signed the bill Tuesday, and it was published in the official state gazette on Wednesday.

It expands the lower house of parliament from 120 to 210 members, all of which will be directly elected. The number of senators is increased to 93 from 66, though only 50 will be elected, with the rest appointed directly or in effect by the president.

The amendment also leaves it to parliament to select a new president if the incumbent resigns, dies or is incapacitated. It also provides for the creation of a human rights commission whose members will be appointed by the president and parliament.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Noel Kututwa told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that pressure is mounting to advance preparations for the elections which are expected to be held next March.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku warned that the act needs to be closely examined as negotiations between the ruling party and opposition leading up to the September amendment vote were shrouded in secrecy.

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