January 7, 2012

Elections in 2012 doubtful

The holding of elections in 2012 is in doubt as political parties remain worlds apart on the matter, with the facilitator in the Zimbabwe crisis, South African President Jacob Zuma, still insisting that any talk of polls at this juncture is counter-productive.
ZANU-PF has said polls would be held this year, with or without a new constitution, to terminate the life of the inclusive government constituted in February 2009 to end nearly a decade of political and economic turmoil. The party's election push is premised on what it has called irreconcilable differences with its governing partners - the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations. The coalition government was consummated as per the terms of the Global Political Agree-ment (GPA), which contained a number of benchmarks such as media reforms and the making of a new constitution to pave way for uncontested polls. But the power-sharing arrangement has proved difficult for the parties, which have been unable to stick to the letter and spirit of that pact in their fight for political space and relevance. Last year, ZANU-PF capitulated from its previous resolution for Zimbabweans to head for voting booths during that same year amid regional and internal pressure, including from Zuma -- who is mediating in the Zimbabwe dialogue on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

At the regional summit held in Livingstone (Zambia) in 2011, Zuma was forced to depart from his predecessor Thabo Mbeki's quiet diplomacy and issued a strong rebuke to ZANU-PF, saying focusing on elections without creating the necessary conducive climate was an "unfortunate side-track". The South African President added that for Zimbabwean parties to enter into an electioneering mode, and continue agitating for the holding of elections, while they had not done enough groundwork towards ensuring that the building blocks and institutions necessary for a free, fair and democratic vote were in place was counter-productive. But at its December 2010 national people's conference held in Bulawayo, ZANU-PF declared 2012 as the year of polls and, since then, it has been marshalling its machinery in readiness for the make-or-break elections.
Observers believe that the party has been re-invigorated by the monumental blunders made by its rivals in the coalition government and the discovery of diamonds, which has given them confidence that they can go it alone, regardless of the existence of any restrictions or targeted sanctions.

This week, Zuma's international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, said the South African leader has not deviated from his pos-ition that talking of elections in Zimbabwe is counter-productive. "That position has not changed. The position still stands for President Zuma and for SADC. It is a principle that in order to old free and fair polls you need to first put the enabling mechanism and the right political climate," said Zulu. She added that representatives of local institutions they have met in Zimbabwe, including those from the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, were still working towards creating the enabling environment. In his Livingstone report, Zuma mentioned some of the issues the governing parties were required to attend to: They include appointing a new board for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, reconstituting the Media Trust and coming up with a new media law. Nearly a year on, the reforms have not been instituted with Media, Information and Publicity Minister, Webster Shamu saying it is illegal to tamper with the status quo.

Edwin Mushoriwa, the vice president of the MDC led by Welshman Ncube, said that elections must only be held in 2013 when the life of the current Parliament expires. "The position of our party is that there are no elections without the necessary reforms as stipulated by the GPA. Elections without the necessary reforms will only lead to GPA number two," said Mushoriwa. "Our view is that the likely time for elections is 2013. Given the pace at which things are happening, it would not be possible to have polls this year. The elections should come at the expiry of the current Parliament in 2013."

The civil society has also demanded minimum electoral conditions before the staging of fresh polls, among them the deployment of local and foreign observers six months before the polls. On the other hand, the MDC-T has said it would boycott any elections held without the necessary reforms. "The party reaffirms its earlier resolutions that elections in Zimbabwe cannot and will not be called for unilaterally by one person or one party and that the election in Zimbabwe will not be date driven but process driven. The Party restates that the date of the next election will only be determined after the fulfilment of all the conditions precedence defined in the roadmap including; the completion of the constitution-making proc-ess and the referendum; the completion of the drafting of a new voters roll," reads part of the MDC-T resolutions arrived at the party's national council meeting held in December last year.

ZANU-PF senior officials have, since their party's conference last month, said Zimbabwe would go for polls this year, with or without a new constitution. One of the party's foot soldiers, Jabu-lani Sibanda -- the chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Vete-rans Association -- this week even went as far as urging President Mugabe to dissolve Parliament, to force an election.

Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB) said Zimbabwe's projected economic growth in 2012 depends on a stable political environment, which could be undermined if a contentious general election takes place. Finance Minister Tendai Biti expects the economy to expand by a further 9,4 percent in 2012 from a forecast 9,3 percent last year, mainly on the back of a rebound in agriculture and mining. Inflation is projected to average five percent this year. (Financial Gazette)

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