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Deploring March Election Call, Zimbabwe Clerics Seek To Empower Voters

A group of Zimbabwean church leaders has expressed concern at the recent decision by President Robert Mugabe to call national elections on March 29 despite what the religious leaders called "unfavorable" conditions in the country for the ballots.

Presidential, general and local elections will be held on the same day nine weeks from now though the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission only completed a major redistricting exercise adding 90 house constituencies and 27 senate seats. Opposition leaders have taken Mr. Mugabe to task saying his election call effectively broke off the crisis resolution talks that South Africa has been mediating since March 2007.

Members of the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference met in Bulawayo Tuesday to consider Mr. Mugabe's decision and how it will affect the outcome of the elections.

Elsewhere, the Bulawayo-based Christian Alliance has called a meeting Wednesday to develop a strategy on advising stakeholders and voters on aspects of the elections.

Reverend Ray Motsi, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Pastors’s Conference and of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign launched by the Christian Alliance, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that church leaders cannot change the election date but can work to empower voters under less-than-ideal conditions.

Meanwhile, opposition officials and civic leaders were drawing public attention to an impending Feb. 8 deadline for voters to register. Inspection of voter rolls begins this Friday, Feb. 1; voters have the right to determine they are properly registered.

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