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No Postponement Of Zimbabwe March Elections - Electoral Commission Chief

Elections slated for March by the government of Zimbabwe will not be postponed, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission told the state-operated Sunday Mail newspaper, adding that his panel has completed controversial redistricting.

ZEC Chairman George Chiweshe told the Sunday Mail that the commission will shortly present a preliminary report to President Robert Mugabe, who told a congress of his ruling ZANU-PF party last month that elections will be held in March "without fail.

The report will then be tabled in parliament, Chiweshe added. "We have delimited, described and mapped all the boundaries," he told the Sunday Mail.

Both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change say elections must be put off until ongoing South African-mediated crisis resolution talks are concluded, with a six-month grace period thereafter to ensure that final accords - many of which concern the conduct of elections - can be implemented.

The opposition has threatened to boycott elections if the government presses ahead with balloting without safeguards in place to ensure the process is free and fair.

Chiweshe told the state-controlled newspaper that his commission had set some 2,000 boundaries for local wards in order to increase the number of House seats to 210 from 150 under the terms of a constitutional amendment adopted last year.

The electoral commission chief said the delimitation process "had been transparent as it incorporated various stakeholders, ranging from political parties to members of the public," the Sunday Mail reported. But the opposition has protested the redistricting process, saying that it has had no meaningful input to the operation and that the commission itself needs to be reconstituted to ensure it is politically balanced.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai, said the opposition has no confidence the ZEC can or will ensure free and fair elections.

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