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Zimbabwe Election Chaos Deepens

Political observers in Zimbabwe are charging new voting districts created by the government violate the country's constitution. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that election experts say the government has failed to allow details of the new constituencies to be debated in parliament as required by the constitution.

The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network says President Robert Mugabe violated the constitution in January by proclaiming elections and not allowing legislators to inspect or debate the new boundaries.

The group says the constitution calls for legislators to approve or seek to change boundaries and to see that voter populations have been allocated fairly.

The government has doubled the number of voting districts for the March 29 elections. Zimbabweans will for the first time vote in presidential, parliamentary, senate and local government elections on the same day.

But there is still no map or even a description of the voting areas for the local government elections and neither candidates nor voters know where they will be able to cast their vote.

The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network says election authorities have made, what they describe as "a mockery" of new election laws that went into force in January.

The group also says the government ran out of voter registration materials and has failed to adequately let people know where and when they could register. In apparent acknowledgment of election-preparation problems, the government has delayed the candidate filing deadline by more than a week, until February 15.

Analysts say the election preparations are chaotic because President Mugabe was determined to hold the polls in March and there was not enough time to introduce so many new laws and voting districts.

South African negotiators who facilitated eight months of negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC failed to persuade President Mugabe to delay the elections until the new laws could be fully enforced.

The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network says new electoral laws are being regularly broken. One of them is a new media law that demands all contesting candidates and parties be given equal treatment by state owned media.

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe which closely monitors domestic media says in its weekly reports that the only daily newspapers, and the only radio and television stations in the country break the law every day.

Opposition parties say high candidate filing fees are hurting the opposition. The 210 parliamentary candidates from each party, need two billion Zimbabwe dollars each.

Opposition election organizers say ruling ZANU-PF candidates have access to government cash, but people in Zimbabwe are only allowed to draw 500 million Zimbabwean dollars a day from their bank accounts.