March 1, 2008

Makoni rival also wins ZANU-PF key supporter / Candidates confirmed

A senior official of the ruling Zanu PF said he would support Makoni in the March 29 election. Dumiso Dabengwa, a senior politburo member, threw his weight behind former finance minister as he was set to launch his presidential campaign. "We urged him (Makoni) to come clean and take the burden and we will give him the necessary facilitation and support," he told business leaders.
Furthermore, a splinter group of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has announced it was backing former finance minister Simba Makoni because he had the capacity to split the military, the bedrock of President Robert Mugabe’s power. Makoni, who was expelled from Zanu PF for challenging Mugabe, filed his papers to stand in the polls as an independent against Mugabe and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Leader of the breakaway MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, said while his group backed Makoni’s presidential bid, it would however field its own candidates in parliamentary and local government elections that are also taking place on the same day as the presidential ballot.
Makoni, who said he had wanted to run for president on a Zanu PF ticket but could not because Mugabe imposed himself as candidate, insists he is working with senior leaders in the party who are also opposed to Mugabe’s continued stay in power. Analysts say Makoni's dramatic entry into the polls could split the opposition vote and spur Mugabe's re-election in spite of the nation's economic misery. However, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa dismissed fears the opposition vote could be split, saying Zimbabweans had the easiest of tasks choosing between Tsvangirai and two Zanu PF formations led by Mugabe and Makoni. He said: "This contest is between Zanu PF and the MDC. Two factions, one led by Mugabe and the other by Simba Makoni, are representing Zanu PF. This election is about a new Zimbabwe. It is about jobs, people’s freedoms, etc, things Zanu PF has failed to deliver. MDC and Tsvangirai are the only option for Zimbabwe.” In the meantime, a nomination court in Harare has confirmed the candidates for presidential elections. The following candidates have been nominated: Makoni Herbert Stanley Simbarashe (Independent), Mugabe Robert Gabriel (Zanu PF), Toungana Langton (Independent) and Tsvangirai Morgan. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has also published a list of 779 candidates for the 210 seats in the lower house of assembly, and 197 aspirants for the 60 elected seats in the upper house, the senate, from 12 political parties and 116 independents. The choice is narrowed by the fact that three of those parties have clear national support. The clarity ends there. Thereafter, voters are faced with numerous candidates claiming to represent the same party, others purporting to represent the genuine faction of one of the mainstream parties but in fact using the name and symbol of a different faction, and independent candidates who are not really independent, but allied to factions of other parties.
"It's going to be very confusing to a lot of voters," admitted David Coltart, senate candidate for the smaller faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The muddle of candidates adds to widespread concern about the elections on March 29, when, for the first time, the electorate of 5.5 million people will have to mark their Xs on four different ballot papers for presidential, house of assembly, senate and local government wards. Church and civic groups point out that the head of ZEC, Judge George Chiweshe, has been illegally appointed by Mugabe; that he ignored legal procedures for the setting of the election date; that the boundaries of the constituencies in the elections were illegally promulgated; and, that there is evidence of comprehensive manipulation of the voters roll. They say ZEC has carried out almost no voter education on the complicated new system, the campaign period is far too short and there is scant hope of all would-be voters being able to cast their vote in a single day. (sapa / News24, South Africa)


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