Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Zimbabwe Seeks Help to Cover Election Costs

Zimbabwe is asking its neighbours to help pay for its general elections, which are three weeks away.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told reporters Wednesday he has spoken to the head of the Southern African Development Community and officials in four regional countries about raising money for the vote.

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections for president, parliament and other offices on July 31. Biti has said the country needs at least $85 million to carry out the polls.

"But we are far away from meeting the target," he said. "We do not have the money, and we can not borrow."

The finance minister has repeatedly said the government is cash-poor because revenue from diamond fields in the east, which are controlled by the military, does not reach the treasury.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, 89, is seeking another term.

Rights groups have raised concern the pro-Mugabe security forces are trying to intimidate his opponents, in hopes of securing victory for the president and his ZANU-PF party.

The last elections in 2008 were marred by beatings, torture and killings of members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.

Mugabe was declared the winner of the 2008 presidential poll, but regional leaders rejected the result and forced him to form a power-sharing government with the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who became prime minister.

Tsvangirai is also running for president this year, his third attempt to unseat Mugabe.

Tsvangirai had pushed for the elections to be delayed, saying reforms of electoral laws and the security forces were needed to ensure the vote is free and fair.

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