Harare - Zimbabwe is well behind schedule with vital reforms needed to ensure a credible and violence-free election that would pick a successor to its troubled power-sharing government, Human Rights Watch warned on Thursday.
The global rights body said repressive legislation had yet to be struck off the books and the power-sharing government has drafted but not passed a new constitution.
Both are seen a prerequisites for a fair vote.
Human Rights Watch added that partisan officials still hold sway in key institutions such as the police, military and election bodies.
“Time is fast running out for the unity government to institute reforms,” said Human Rights Watch in a report released Thursday.
President Robert Mugabe - who in 2009 was forced into a power-sharing government with his political foe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - wants to organise elections in March.
But with the government making “little progress... there are genuine concerns that if elections are held in March, there will be widespread human rights violations ahead of, during and after the elections.”
“Such violations will undermine a credible, free and fair vote.”
It is estimated more than 200 people were killed in the 2008 violence-marred elections.
The government “has neglected the enforcement of various agreements that would facilitate a rights-respecting environment and the holding of credible, free, and fair elections,” it said.
The head of a human rights commission, appointed to help curb rights violations, quit his job last week citing inhibiting laws and lack of resources.