CHANCES of Zimbabwe running free and fair elections next year remain a pipe-dream because of a lack of political will from the government to adequately fund the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), opposition and lobby groups have said.
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) said next year's elections risk being labelled as "illegitimate and not credible way before they are conducted".
"Without adjustments to the budget allocation to Zec, the conduct of election will not deliver credibility and legitimacy. It would be best to postpone.
"The budget allocation is a threat to the credibility of elections. It threatens the efficiency and sustainability of the country's democracy and opens the process up to increased disenfranchisement and voter suppression," the ERC said in a statement.
MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has insisted President Robert Mugabe lacks credibility following the 2013 polls that the former Prime Minister claims were rigged.
People's Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, said: "Zec will be funded to the extent that it carries a rigging process that does not make the international community angry."
But Zec chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, said the government had committed itself to funding all processes ahead of the elections.
"We are getting all the funding we need as and when we request, nothing has stopped because of financial constraints. We have also been assured that the money for the planned biometric voters' roll registration will be made available," she said.
ERC described the measly financial allocations to Zec as an indication of the lack of political will to effect the reforms that opposition groups have been clamouring for ahead of the elections.
"The lessons of 2013 show that election costs cannot be budgeted for during the year of the election if credibility, transparency and legitimacy are to be achieved," the lobby group said.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said the government needed to "swallow its pride" and invite help from regional and international organisations.
"We cannot run credible, free and fair elections on a shoe-string budget. The MDC has long since called for the direct and immediate involvement of Sadc, African Union and the United Nations in the running of elections next year.
"But Zec is operating on a skip-and-jump basis. But the bankrupt and faction-infested Zanu PF regime has no appetite for running a free and fair election because they know that the people are fed up with them and that they will dismally lose a credible plebiscite," he said.
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC's spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi, echoed similar sentiments. "Lack of funding for Zec is a Zanu PF strategy to weaken the institution and keep most questions unanswered ahead of the 2018 elections," he said.
Opposition parties have coalesced around the National Electoral Reform Agenda to demand a fresh configuration of the political playing field, but with little success.