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US Expresses 'Very Serious Concern' About Zimbabwe March Elections

The U.S. government has expressed “very serious concern” about the elections set for March 29 in Zimbabwe, saying the Harare government's past performance did not encourage optimism as to the conduct of the elections in a free and fair manner.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey told journalists in a briefing Thursday that the Zimbabwean government's record "doesn’t leave us with a lot of hope” that the presidential, parliamentary and local council elections will be free and fair.

Casey added that the United States would like to see international observers deployed to monitor the elections "not only just as a matter of general principle but because there have been so many problems and concerns" with the political process.

In the country, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network again expressed reservations about the electoral process. ZESN issued a statement earlier this week saying that the delimitation or redistricting process carried out by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was not constitutional, as parliament was not given a chance to debate the results.

ZESN followed up Friday with a warning about the national voters roll, saying that it is a "shambles." The civic group, which deployed thousands of monitors during the 2005 general election, said the names of many voters have mysteriously disappeared from the roll in the midst of a major reorganization of constituencies and wards.

In an interview with reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa reviewed the issues plaguing the elections, beginning with the way in which the ZEC delimitation report was tabled in parliament just days before it recessed. Only one copy was made available to the entire parliament.

With registration and voter roll inspection a focus of public attention, some residents of the capital were distressed this week to find their access to a registration office in the center of Harare obstructed by a sudden influx of soldiers and police officers.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera reported on the confused registration process.

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