Zambia to start voter registration two years before elections

Lusaka - The southern African country of Zambia is set to start updating its voter register after aborting the overdue task for lack of time and money before last year's presidential by-election.

Electoral commission head Florence Mumba was quoted by state media as saying Tuesday that the commission would begin a continuous registration process in all 150 constituencies in the copper-rich country in June.

Zambia's parliament last week approved spending of 5 billion kwacha (around 900,000 dollars) for the exercise, which is seen as key to building trust in the electoral process in a country, where the last two national elections have been marred by contestation.

The population of Zambia, a former British colony, is about 12 million but only 3.9 million people are registered to vote. Of these, only around 1.8 million voted in last October's election to choose a successor for deceased president Levy Mwanawasa - an election won by his former deputy, Rupiah Banda.

The electoral commission stopped voter registration in the run-up to the vote, saying they did not have enough money or time to complete the task.

Opposition parties and civil society organizations protested, and accused the body of deliberately trying to restrict the number of voters. Opposition leader Michael Sata accused the commission of being biased in Banda's favour.

Zambians are scheduled to return to the polls in 2011 to vote in general elections. (dpa)