Elections saga gets murkier

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s weekend remarks that elections are only foreseeable in nine to 12 months have further clouded the key election-date issue amid spirited attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s party to have the polls by March.

While the Zanu PF strongman has said in recent court papers that he wants polls by the first quarter of 2013, his MDC rival has suggested otherwise by telling his party’s 13th anniversary in Bulawayo that elections would only be conducted “under a Sadc-guaranteed framework.”

“Once that new charter (on-going constitutional reform) is with us, a finishing line shall become clearly visible,” Tsvangirai said.

“An election conducted under an agreed framework and, in terms of international norms and standards, shall soon be with us within the next nine to 12 months,” the premier said, meaning polls are only possible in June to September next year.

Yesterday, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka emphasised his boss’s statements.

“The Prime Minister has consistently insisted that dates for the next election cannot be thumb-sucked by the President,” he said.

“All reforms including media and security sector have to be completed before the Principals to the Global Political Agreement agree on a date for elections. There cannot be a unilateral decision by the President. The issue of election dates is process driven,” Tamborinyoka added.

Last week, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said it was impossible to hold free and fair elections by March.

It said the call by Mugabe —for full elections that time — did not allow for enough preparations to establish conditions for a free vote, as it presented a logistical nightmare.

Zesn cited disputes in finalising a new constitution; continuing political intimidation and gross inaccuracies in voter’s roll that still had names of people who are either long dead or are too young to be voters.

Mugabe’s coalition partners have also dismissed the timetable, saying it was unilateral and unrealistic.

The financially-crippled coalition government has already postponed the second all-stakeholders constitutional conference because of cash challenges.

Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu PF spokesperson, said his party was always ready for elections and it rejected charges that it was blocking crucial reforms.

Qhubani Moyo, the policy director in Welshman Ncube’s MDC, said elections are only feasible by June.

“First, we need to ensure that conditions that will allow for free and fair elections are met. While it is important for Mugabe to comply with the court order, we (must) not allow shortcuts,” he said.

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