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Zimbabwe Electoral Commission In Redistricting Over Opposition Objections

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has launched the process of carving out 90 new constituencies under the provisions of a constitutional amendment signed into law in September, but the opposition is objecting saying the commission is overstepping its bounds in embarking on redistricting before crisis resolution talks are completed.

Among other significant changes, the constitutional amendment expands the lower house of parliament from 120 elected seats to a new total of 210.

With national elections called by the government for March 2008, time is short for a major rearrangement of the country's electoral landscape.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in negotiations since March with the ruling party over political and especially electoral reform, says the exercise should not be carried out until the South African mediated talks are completed.

Political sources said however that the process is now well under way.

The opposition has also criticized the electoral commission over the its handling of the national voters list which it says is out of date and replete with false entries.

ZEC Chairman George Chiweshe told journalists in Harare Thursday that no register could be perfect. "The fact that there may be names of some dead people does not mean that the voters roll is not a credible register as people die every day but the official evidence must be provided to correct that," Chiweshe said.

Chiweshe said that as of this week there were some 5.6 million voters on the list, and that this would serve as the basis to redivide constituencies to add 90 more.

Spokesman Gabriel Chaibva of the MDC formation headed by Arthur Mutambara told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that despite objections the electoral commission is operating within the confines of existing laws.

But spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo of the MDC grouping of Morgan Tsvangirai said the process is illegitimate because it does not take the talks into account.

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