November 4, 2004

No election postponement, says Government

Zimbabwe will not postpone March's parliamentary polls as suggested by the opposition, because that would illegally extend the mandate of President Robert Mugabe's government, the state Herald newspaper reported. Before, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had said that the elections might have to be postponed to allow for proposed electoral reforms and bring polls in line with new regional democratic standards. However, as Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge explained, "it will be illegal for us to do that and we will be attacked for remaining in power without the people's mandate". He added that the MDC had made no official request. "We have only read about it in the press and they have not expressed this in parliament, so at the moment we say this is speculation, Mudenge made clear.
According to MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi, the government's refusal to postpone elections was a sign that it was afraid of free and fair elections: "The ZANU-PF government is terrified of free elections and that is why they do not want critical observers to come and witness the elections. They are rushing to hold elections without implementing the [Southern African Development Community election] guidelines because the rigging mechanism is already in place," he alleged. Addressing the ruling ZANU-PF central committee meeting in Harare, President Robert Mugabe said that Western countries and the MDC wanted to treat the SADC guidelines governing democratic elections as an aid package "which we receive with conditionalities". MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai and the party's secretary general, Welshman Ncube, have argued that there was not enough time to implement the SADC protocol on elections before March next year. Mugabe has said only "authentic" Africans would observe the Zimbabwean elections.
In the context of election observers it has in the meantime also become known that Zimbabwe will allow "invited observers" to oversee the parliamentary elections. As the country's ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, said, organisations and countries not cleared by the Zimbabwe authorities would be barred from observing the poll. "Observers, both local and foreign, come to observe upon invitation - please take note of that - it is not a must that you can just walk in and say I have come to observe," he told members of the committee. "Some (at the) last election came in as tourists and ended up as observers. That is criminal...it is anarchy and we don't allow that," said Moyo, apparently referring to monitors from the European Union. He ruled out the possibility of the EU being allowed to monitor next year's elections. Moyo said he expected electoral authorities to invite observers from neighbouring South Africa, the regional Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, and "certain individual countries". However, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has made it clear that it wants all observers willing to oversee the election admitted. The issue of observers could add impetus to the opposition party's resolve to boycott the elections. (Rts/The Herald, Harare/Zimbabwe Online)

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