Catholics call for Zimbabwe elections to be postponed

By agency reporter
February 18, 2008

Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) has called for the postponement of the national elections due on 29 March 2008. They say there are clear signs that the poll will not be free and fair under current conditions.

The J&P Commission commented that both the established voter registration process and the requirements for the presidential and parliamentary elections are "cumbersome" and will make it difficult for citizens in many areas of the country to take part.

"There has been inadequate preparation and voter education on the electoral process," the Commission declared in a statement released on 16 February.

It added that the confusion is compounded by the presidential and parliamentary elections being held simultaneously for the first time.

Millions of Zimbabweans who have fled to neighbouring states or who have gone overseas to escape their country's economic meltdown should be allowed to vote because they still contribute significantly to Zimbabwe, the Commission said.

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged government authorities to adhere to the Southern African Development Community's Principles and Guidelines Governing the Holding of Democratic Elections "in letter and in spirit."

"We would like to remind the relevant authorities and citizens that elections are a process and not a once-off event," it said.

The justice and peace commission said that, seven weeks before the elections, citizens still did not have information such as which candidates would be running and which parties would field candidates.

"We strongly recommend that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission be dissolved with immediate effect and a new one be appointed in terms of the new law", the Commission concluded.

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