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Zimbabwe Opposition Fears 'Ghost Voters' Will Decide 2008 Elections

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change continues to voice concerns about the national voters roll, raising the prospect that so-called “ghost voters” might play a decisive role in the national elections slated to be held in March 2008.

The voters roll is coming to the center of crisis talks in Pretoria, South Africa, between the MDC and the ruling Zanu-PF party, sources close to the talks said.

Following the 2005 general elections, South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediating the talks, said Harare's voters roll was “defective and needed to be looked at.”

Opposition officials say the voters roll, which is still maintained by hand, remains the ruling party's main mechanism for electoral fraud. Secretary General Tendai Biti of the MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai and one of two negotiators for the opposition in Pretoria, says inaccuracies in the voters roll pave the way for the stuffing of ballot boxes, vote inflation and reallocations of votes in closely fought constituencies.

Harare contracted in 1999 with an Israeli firm to computerize the roll, but the registrar general has refused to give the opposition an electronic copy of the document.

Elections Director Dennis Murira of the Tsvangirai opposition faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party has detected serious irregularities on the roll, including the names of dead and under-age voters.

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