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Voter Education Deficient In Zimbabwe Election Process, Say Experts

With five weeks to go to presidential, general and local elections in Zimbabwe, experts say many in the electorate are confused by the process, in part due to restrictions on who, other than the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, may educate voters.

The ZEC is the only entity legally authorized to conduct voter education, which has the effect of barring civic groups from taking up the task. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which deployed thousands of monitors in the 2005 general election, is still waiting for the ZEC to respond to a request for permission to educate voters.

Such groups say voter education is crucial as the so-called harmonized elections set for March 29 will be more complicated than most previous election rounds. General elections have normally been held separately from presidential elections.

Local and international groups worry that without a major voter education campaign the electorate will be misinformed about new wards and constituency boundaries, documents required on voting day and the logistics of the voting process.

For perspective on this problem, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Advocacy Officer Gladys Hlatshwayo of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which despite the implied prohibition has been educating voters around the country, and Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Noel Kututwa.

Kututwa said it is now clear that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has done very little in the way of preparing the electorate and time is now running out.

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