July 21, 2011

Deadlock after Zanu-PF insists on elections still in 2011

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s party has renewed its calls for new elections this year, rejecting a timeline that his own negotiators promoted. “The politburo is unanimous that elections should be held this year,” Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told the Herald newspaper after the party’s top decision-making body met in the capital. On July 6, negotiators from Mugabe’s party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed on a timeline for election preparations which would put the polls in 2012. But the politburo said negotiators in the power-sharing government should revise the timeline to ensure elections are held this year, Gumbo said. “Some of the timelines in the roadmap are unacceptable. Days that have been assigned to deal with some of these issues are too long. For example, you cannot say preparation of the voters’ roll should take 60 days,” he said. “By the end of the year we should have elections if they expedite the constitution-making process, particularly the drafting and referendum stages.” The parties had before agreed that new electoral laws should be completed within 45 days from the July 6 signing of the roadmap. Voter education should take place within the following 30 days, and preparation of a new voters roll within two months. No decision was made on the date for a referendum on a new constitution.

Under Zimbabwe’s unity accord, signed after violent and inconclusive presidential elections in 2008, a new constitution must be approved by referendum before new general elections. The constitutional drafting process is running a year behind schedule. Drafters have set September as the target for a referendum, but repeated delays have left that deadline in doubt.

In the meantime, a SADC facilitation team has arrived with the intention of breaking the deadlock that is related to three key issues: state-sponsored violence, security sector reforms, staffing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and militarisation of rural areas. Political analysts are warning that if the forthcoming SADC summit in Luanda mid-August fails to take stern action to stall an election this year, then nothing would stop Mugabe ‘winning’ a seventh term as the president of Zimbabwe. Hopes of limiting the scale of the disaster now rest with SADC leaders and President Zuma, who has been trying to persuade Mugabe to agree to an election roadmap that paves the way for a free and fair election. Zanu (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo has insinuated that the MDC-T is scared of elections and that the GNU expired in February. "For the record," said MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora, “The MDC is ready for elections anytime, anywhere. Unlike the unpopular Zanu (PF), the MDC, the people of Zimbabwe, SADC and the AU agree that there should be a clear roadmap to the holding of free, fair and uncontested elections." (The Zimbabwean)

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