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Observers Doubt Zimbabwe Can Organize Free and Fair Vote By March

Can Zimbabwe really organize critical national elections by March 2008? The question is on the minds of many these days as crisis resolution talks continue under South African mediation with discussions turning to conditions for free and fair ballots.

The government insists that parliamentary and presidential elections will go ahead as proposed in March (with local elections in January). But independent observers say that it is unrealistic to expect conditions to be in place for fair elections by then.

Critics say the national voters roll is a “shambles,” even before officials try to delimit 90 new constituencies and educate voters in the new circumscriptions.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is moving to recruit 59 district election officers, brushing off arguments from the opposition that accords reached in the Pretoria talks call for a new and truly independent commission to be set up to replace it.

Meanwhile, a second round of mobile registration is under way through Nov. 15, but the Zimbabwe Election Support Network on Friday handed a report to the commission citing what it described as "flaws" in the exercise.

For perspective on such issues and the level of preparedness for next year’s elections, reporter Carole Gombakomba turned to National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and Alois Chaumba, national director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, another election monitor.

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