March poll push dead

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s dream for a March 2013 poll is effectively dead and buried  after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) requested at least three months to carry out a comprehensive voter registration exercise.

Officials from Zec — the body mandated with presiding over electoral processes in the country, last week met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa and requested for urgent funding to kick-start a voter registration blitz that would take three months to carry out.

William Bango, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, said Zec’s request effectively means that elections are impossible by March as envisaged by Zanu PF.

Mugabe, who is in a coalition government with bitter rival Tsvangirai, and Welshman Ncube, the Industry and Commerce minister and leader of the smaller MDC formation, has been insisting that the country would go for an election before end of March next year with or without a new constitution.

However, Zec’s request for three months to register voters, notwithstanding that a referendum is held or not, means Zimbabwe will not be ready for polls by end of March.

“The fundamental thing that was discussed at the meeting, apart from a revised Zec budget and the dropping-off of the delimitation of the country’s constituencies, is that Zec requested three months in order to register people.

“A decision was taken in that meeting that Zimbabwe should embark on an intensive voter registration and voter confirmation exercise contacted by Zec for three months,” said Bango.

Mugabe has already told the courts the country will go for harmonised elections come March in order to fulfil an obligation to hold by-elections in all vacant seats that were left vacant either by deaths of incumbents or defections to other political parties.

“The request from Zec basically scuttles the March election. What that means is if we start registration on January 3, it means it would end on the 3rd March then a proclamation of the electoral dates must take place,” said Bango.

“If all things go well without any delays an election is certainly not in March and maybe in the middle of the year. The suggestion that Zec needs three months came from Zec itself,” said Bango.

Joyce Kazembe, Zec acting chairperson who
attended the meeting, however, said time needed for registration does not rest with the body but with the Principals.

“This is an area that is beyond us. The issue of time was discussed but those are principles that are not cast in stone. They may be changed,” said Kazembe.

Zec, which is currently broke and urgently needs at least $20 million to start the voter registration blitz, should also procure indelible ink which will take eight weeks to deliver.

Mugabe’s election point man Chinamasa, says it is premature to fix election dates because a final constitutional draft is yet to be completed owing to disagreements among coalition partners.

“Everything depends on the finalisation of the constitution-making process, so we cannot determine when the referendum and elections will be held,” he said.

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