December 7, 2007

Government steams ahead with March election plans / Opposition wants new laws before vote

The country's electoral agency has announced the delimitation of constituency boundaries for the March elections. George Chiweshe, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), also stressed that without a legal change, there could be no change in the election date. The government has so far not announced a specific date for the elections. The country's main opposition parties stressed that they would not participate without the implementation of conditions agreed to at the SADC mediated talks in South Africa. Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the Tsvangirai MDC, described Chiweshe's announcement as a "joke" that reflects the arrogance of those who do not want to see an end to the Zimbabwe crisis. He said that it was "inconceivable and impossible" to hold elections in March.
Gabriel Chaibva, speaking for the Mutambara MDC formation, emphasised that according to the constitution of Zimbabwe it was the prerogative of the head of state to announce an election date 90 days prior to the expiration of his term. He said this had been done and elections can be held in March. But whether their party would be involved was another issue. Chaibva said: "As a result of the ongoing SADC mediation efforts in South Africa, at this stage it would be premature for us to be making a reference to whether we will participate in the elections or not." Chaibva stressed that they would not allow anyone to "walk free to state house."
Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), also said that talks with Mugabe's ZANU-PF to hammer out a new constitution had ground to a halt because the ruling party wanted to delay implementation until after the elections. "What we know and what we believe is that a basis for a free and fair contest is that there should be negotiations and those negotiations should lead to all parties accepting that the conditions are free and fair. Without that, it will be a unilateral position by Mugabe and not by us," Tsvangirai stated.
ZANU-PF and the MDC have been in talks on revamping the constitution since June in an effort to end political and economic turmoil, and ensure future election results are accepted by all parties. The talks have so far yielded changes to electoral, media and security laws. Officials from both sides say the new constitution, which has not been made public, includes unspecified 'frameworks' to guarantee free and fair elections. "It is actually a contestable issue to have an election without a transitional constitution because it is that constitution that creates the institutions that run elections in a free and fair manner," Tsvangirai said.
Ruling party officials have said a draft constitution agreed with the MDC could be made public this month and that Mugabe wants it to be implemented after the elections. However, the MDC wants it adopted before the vote. (SW Radio Africa, London / rts)

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